INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The brakes on the bus carrying teenagers home from a
youth camp in northern Michigan failed as the vehicle exited the
Indianapolis interstate, causing it to strike a retaining wall and flip on
its side, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
Bus driver Dennis Mauer, 68, told the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police that
the brakes failed and he wasn’t able to keep the bus from crashing Saturday
afternoon, the Indianapolis Star reported. Three people died and several
The investigation into the crash, which happened on an Interstate 465 exit
ramp, is ongoing, authorities said. Indianapolis Fire Department Lt. Ato
McTush said Saturday that investigators had not determined whether the
church-owned bus had mechanical issues.
The bus was nearly finished with a 365-mile journey, overturning just a mile
from the Colonial Hills Baptist Church. At the church, parents were waiting
to pick up their children after a weeklong camp filled with prayer, zip
lines and basketball when a bus carrying younger campers pulled in, its
Jeff Leffew, 44, of Fishers, had sent four daughters to Camp CoBeAc, near
Prudenville, Mich. Only one daughter was on the bus that pulled into the
parking lot, and he raced to the crash site in northern Indianapolis. What
he found was a surreal scene, with clothing and other items strewn about and
windows missing from the bus.
“You’re just praying that it’s not as bad as it looks,” said Leffew, a
deacon at the church.
His daughters escaped with just bumps and bruises, but others weren’t as
fortunate. Indianapolis fire officials said a husband and wife were dead at
the scene, along with a third person whose age they didn’t state. Twenty-six
people were taken to area hospitals, and one teenager remained in critical
condition on Sunday.
Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs called the crash a “great
“They were not that far from home. ... That only adds to the tragedy,” Riggs
said at the crash scene. He said there was no indication that the driver had
a medical emergency.
Witnesses described a horrifying scene.
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. - about
the time youth pastor Chad Phelps had tweeted that the group would arrive at
“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
He said people approached and tried to help.
“People were literally trying to lift the bus,” Lloyd said. “You just try to
do what you can do.”
Sasha Sample, 28, told The Indianapolis Star some victims were lying in the
road, while others were able to limp to the side.
“Everybody had boils and scrapes on them,” she said. “People were trying to
climb from under the bus.”
Sample, a nurse, said she borrowed a belt to make a tourniquet for the bus
driver’s arm but wasn’t able to help the man next to him, who was already
“I couldn’t do anything for him,” Sample said. “So you triage. You help
those you can.”
Fire officials said 37 people were on the bus, and the injured included
children and adults. Three teenagers were still at IU Health Methodist
Hospital, spokeswoman Sally Winter said Sunday, including one in critical
condition. Five teenagers remained at the Riley Hospital for Children at IU
Health; a toddler had been treated and released.
Many of the patients had head, arm and leg injuries, fire officials said.
Families of the bus passengers gathered at the church Saturday evening to
comfort each other and pray.
Mayor Greg Ballard described many as “remarkably positive” despite their
sorrow, but said there will be difficult days ahead.
“Some of the teenagers are hurting pretty bad and you can see that in their
faces,” he said.
Bob Taylor, who retired as the church’s pastor four years ago, said members
of the congregation would come together Sunday and take comfort in their
“Our church family will meet tomorrow and pray together and sing songs
together and just trust the Lord to give his grace,” he said.