Chesterton Tribune



Man grabs charter bus steering wheel on I-94 here; three hurt in crash

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A passenger on a private charter bus traveling on I-94 on Thursday is accused of grabbing the wheel from the driver, causing the bus to crash into a semi-tractor trailer, injuring three other passengers on the bus and occasioning a significant emergency response from Duneland fire departments.

According to the Indiana State Police, the bus--an Indian Trails charter--was westbound on I-94 en route to Chicago when, east of North Brummitt Road, passenger Pedro Garcia Rodriguez, 36, of Chicago, approached the driver, then “grabbed the wheel in an apparent attempt to gain control of the bus.”

The bus swerved out of its lane to the right and struck the semi, with both vehicles running off the roadway and coming to rest upright on the outside shoulder, police said.

Rodriguez was subsequently arrested on charges of aggravated battery, criminal recklessness with a motor vehicle, and criminal mischief, police said. He was transported to Porter County Jail.

The bus driver was identified as Jill Mcvannel, 52, of Saginaw, Mich.; the semi operator, as Daniel Martinez, 38, of Romeoville, Ill.

Capt. Rudy Jimenez of the Chesterton Fire Department told the Chesterton Tribune this morning that three persons were transported to Porter Regional Hospital, complaining of chest, rib, and shoulder injuries. Five other persons signed medical refusals at the scene.

Responding to the scene were all three Tri-Town FDs: the CFD with an engine and ambulance; the Porter FD with engine and rescue truck; and the Burns Harbor FD with an ambulance and heavy rescue vehicle, the latter of which Jimenez described as essentially “a giant tool box on wheels.”

Porter Regional Hospital sent three ambulances to the scene, the Portage FD responded as well with an ambulance of its own and an ALS company, and the Valparaiso FD put an ambulance on stand-by at Ind. 49 and the Indiana Toll Road to provide a response in Duneland should one be needed while the Tri-Town departments were busy on I-94. Meanwhile, off-duty CFD personnel were recalled to staff the station at Broadway in the interim.

“We had a whole lot of personnel at the scene,” Jimenez said. “A whole lot people. It went very, very well.”

Cloverleaf responded with wreckers to get the bus and semi off the shoulder, and once the bus was back on the road--and driveable--the CFD escorted it to Indian Boundary Road and Plaza Drive. “We wanted to get the passengers off the interstate,” Jimenez said. There the bus was met by a second Indian Trails bus and the passengers transferred onto it.

Jimenez was unable to say, any more than the ISP could, why the man grabbed the wheel in the first place.


Posted 8/23/2019




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