INDIANAPOLIS – A bus carrying teenagers returning home from a church camp in Michigan crashed Saturday afternoon about a mile from its destination, killing three people and sending 26 others to hospitals, officials said.
The bus came speeding off of Interstate 465 in northern Indianapolis, about a mile from the Colonial Hills Baptist Church that passengers attended. It struck a retaining wall as it tried to round a curve and overturned.
“They were not that far from home. … That only adds to the tragedy,” Indianapolis Public Safety Director Tony Riggs said.
The dead included a husband and wife, Riggs said. Authorities did not provide information on the third victim.
Indianapolis Fire Department Lt. Ato McTush said. He did not have information about the third victim.
Riggs visited the crash scene with Mayor Greg Ballard before heading to the church. Riggs said there was no indication that the driver had a medical emergency and called the accident “a great tragedy.”
WTHR-TV reported the bus driver told witnesses his brakes failed. Indianapolis Fire Department Lt. Ato McTush said police and fire officials had not determined whether the bus had mechanical issues.
Duane Lloyd told the TV station that he heard a loud noise behind him as he was travelling near the intersection and saw the crash around 4:15 p.m.
“I heard a skid. I looked back. I see this bus in the air and people falling out of the bus,” Lloyd said. “I could have gone my whole life without seeing that.”
Karen Woodard, a member of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, cried as she stared at the wrecked bus surrounded by pillows, water bottles and clothing. She said the bus was returning from a youth camp in Michigan and some of the teens had their parents with them.
“It’s so terrible. I can’t believe it,” she said.
Indianapolis Fire Department said crews had to free five people who were trapped inside after the crash. Four good Samaritans helped before first responders could arrive, including one man who helped pull the driver out of the bus, the agency said.
“People were stopping their cars. People were literally trying to lift the bus,” Lloyd said. “You just try to do what you can do.”
Fire officials said the bus was carrying about 40 passengers and that the injured included children and adults.
Nine teenagers were taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital, including one in critical condition. Four others, including three teenagers and a toddler, were in stable condition at Riley Hospital for Children, a spokeswoman for the hospitals said.
Many of the patients were suffering head, arm and leg injuries, fire officials said.
Roads near the scene were closed, and authorities were urging people to use caution in the area. A hazardous materials crew was cleaning up diesel fuel that spilled in the crash.
Outside the church about a mile away, families gathered to hug and talk quietly as parents paced back and forth talking on cellphones. A yellow school bus with the church school’s name was parked outside with piles of sleeping bags and suitcases nearby.
Associated Press writer Tom Murphy contributed to this story.
© The Canadian Press, 2013