A horrific rollover of a school bus transporting high school basketball players to a playoff game miraculously resulted in no life-threatening injuries but the incident provided the most recent sparks to a national debate about whether or not school buses should be required nationwide to have three-point seat belts.
The Griffith High School boy's basketball team was on its way to the Indiana state semifinal game on Saturday along I-65 when another motorist spilled a drink on herself, according to the Indiana State Police, and sideswiped the Type C school bus at approximately 12:10 p.m. local time. The bus with 21 students and six adults on board veered off the highway and into a ditch, where it rolled over onto the roof which appeared to be at least partially crushed. A surgeon who stopped to offer assistance told the Indianapolis Star that only one passenger had to be extracted via emergency crew while the rest came off the bus without assistance.
An investigation by state police was ongoing at this report.
All school buses are required to comply with roof-crush tests under FVMSS 220, but the standard merely offers a benchmark for manufacturers to use in strengthening roof construction, and no test can possibly address every possible crash and crash forces placed upon school buses, as a highway safety expert who wished to remain anonymous told STN.
A Navistar spokeswoman added that all its school buses meet and exceed FMVSS 220 as well as FMVSS 221 on joint strength and FMVSS 217 on emergency evacuation.
The school bus was reportedly also not equipped with any type of seat belt restraint system aside from that available to the bus driver.
The Indiana State Police said in a press release that the school bus was driven by Andriana Wright, 54, of Griffith, and, in addition to the basketball team, other passengers included a ball boy, coaches, managers, and an athletic trainer from Griffith High School. The preliminary investigation determined that Dominique T. Small, 23 of Terre Haute, Indiana was driving the 2001 Kia that veered into the school bus. The report said that she was driving in the southbound, left lane of I-65 when the lid of her drink came off, spilling the contents on her. No charges had been filed at this report.
The state police added that a school bus from Kankakee Valley School Corporation south of Chicago as well as ambulances transported 20 of the school bus passengers to a local hospital, while one of the coaches was flown by air ambulance to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The bus driver and a coach were taken by ambulance to another hospital in Kankakee, Illinois with non-life threatening injuries. and the athletic trainer and three students were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Merrillville, Indiana. All were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
One of the students onboard the bus told ABC's Good Morning America that the crash occurred about 45 minutes into the trip to Lafayette, Indiana, where Griffith High School was to play Marion High School for a berth in this weekend's state championship game.
“(A)nd the next thing you know, we started swaying from the left and then to the right. But we were in the back, so we couldn’t see what was going on, on the road,” said Martin Schiele, a senior point guard on the team. “And we were kind of in shock. When we turned to the right, we started flipping into a ditch, and as we were flipping, bodies were ricocheting off the bus. It was just crazy.”
Schiele added that after the initial shock of the crash wore off, he realized "throbbing pain" in one of his knees, his head hurt after it struck the emergency door handle during impact and he had pain in his chest muscles.