INDIANAPOLIS — A bus carrying teenagers returning to Indiana from a church camp in Michigan crashed Saturday afternoon just minutes from home, 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, struck a retaining wall as it rounded a curve and overturned. The campers were returning from Camp CoBeAc in northern Michigan, about six hours away.
The church’s youth pastor had sent a tweet a couple of hours before the crash saying the group was expected to arrive at the church about 4:15 p.m., around the time the accident happened.
“They were not that far from home. That only adds to the tragedy,” said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.
The dead included a man and his wife, Riggs said. Authorities did not provide information about the third victim.
Riggs and Mayor Greg Ballard visited the crash scene, where clothing, pillows and seat cushions from the bus were scattered along with at least two shattered windows, before they headed to the church. Riggs said there was no indication that the driver had a medical emergency and called the accident “a great tragedy.”
Ballard said investigators were taking measurements and examining the bus to determine the cause of the crash.
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 church-owned bus, which was carrying 37 people, had mechanical issues.
Duane Lloyd told WTHR that he heard a loud noise behind him as he was traveling 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.
Several people stopped to help before first responders could arrive, including one man who helped pull the driver out of the bus, the department 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.