Posted at 10:26 a.m., Friday, March 2, 2007
6 killed as bus carrying Ohio team crashes in Atlanta
By Daniel Yee
The bus, carrying the team from the close-knit, Mennonite-affiliated Bluffton University, toppled off the Northside Drive bridge onto a pickup truck on Interstate 75 shortly before dawn, police spokesman Joe Cobb said.
"It looked to me like a big slab of concrete falling down," said truck driver Danny Lloyd, 57, of Frostburg, Md. "I didn't recognize it was a bus. I think when I saw the thing coming, I think I closed my eyes and stepped on the gas."
The impact broke his windshield, pushed his truck into the concrete and wrecked the front bumper, but Lloyd wasn't injured.
Four students, the bus driver and the bus driver's wife were killed, said police Maj. Calvin Moss.
A.J. Ramthun, an 18-year-old second-baseman, was asleep in a window seat when the bus hit the overpass wall, jolting him awake.
"I just looked out and saw the road coming up at me. I remember the catcher tapping me on the head, telling me to get out because there was gas all over," he told reporters.
His brother, a fellow team member, was trapped underneath the bus and damaged his hip. "He might not recover from that," Ramthun said. He said his own collarbone was broken and he had to get stitches in his face.
I heard some guys crying "I'm stuck, I'm stuck," while the rest of the team helped the most injured players off the bus, said Ramthun, from Springfield, Ohio.
"It was what you'd expect out of any college team more concern for others than you have about yourself," he said.
Nineteen students three in critical condition were being treated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Dr. Leon Haley said. He said all but two students were awake and talking.
"All things considered, they are pretty calm," Haley said. "They are very aware of what's going on."
Three other injured people were taken to Piedmont Hospital, and seven were taken to Atlanta Medical Center, Haley said. Officials at the three hospitals said 28 of the 29 were college age, and the age of the other injured person could not immediately be determined.
Piedmont hospital spokeswoman Diana Lewis said the team's coach, James Grandey, 29, was in serious condition and expected to improve.
"This is a profound and tragic day in the life of Bluffton University," school President James Harder told reporters Friday morning in Ohio.
Classes were canceled. The school called off other sports trips planned during next week's spring break, Harder said.
"This is deeply impacting all of our students, faculty and staff. We know these people on a first-name basis," he said. "For now we're pulling together and supporting each other as best we can."
On campus, students and residents of the community filled the school's basketball gym to grieve together and learn more about what had happened. Some wiped away tears as they came in. The university, with about 1,150 students in the town of Bluffton 50 miles south of Toledo, is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA.
The baseball team had been scheduled to play its first game of the season in Sarasota, Fla., tomorrow against Eastern Mennonite College of Harrisonburg, Va., and it had eight more games scheduled in Fort Myers, Fla.
Cobb said the bus was southbound on I-75 when it crashed about 5:30 a.m. The driver may have mistaken an exit ramp for a lane, he said. It was dark at the time, but the weather was clear.
When the bus went off the bridge and landed on its side in the southbound lanes of the interstate.
The National Transportation Safety Board was called in to investigate.
Five fire trucks were at the scene as firefighters pulled crash victims through the roof of the bus. Baseball equipment bags littered the scene after the crash, and luggage spilled from the vehicle when it was set right side up.