KANKAKEE TOWNSHIP | A Griffith man was killed and 15 others were injured when a pickup truck hit a bus carrying casinogoers Wednesday on U.S. 20 near County Road 450 East, deputies said.
LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said the driver of the truck, John M. Kallok, 36, of Griffith, was killed in the crash. Kallok died at the scene from blunt force trauma, Sullivan said.
The crash happened at 3:15 p.m. as Kallok was driving in the westbound lanes and lost control of the vehicle, said Maj. John Boyd, of the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office. The truck traveled left of center and hit an eastbound bus coming from Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Mich.
LaPorte County Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer said Kallok's pickup truck went into the ditch and the bus came to a stop in a nearby field about 300 yards from the road.
The impact of the crash caused Kallok to be thrown from the vehicle, officials said. He died at the scene.
Though the crash remains under investigation, Boyd said investigators think slick pavement caused by weather conditions played a role in the crash.
The bus involved in the crash was a Royal Excursion bus that was coming from Four Winds in New Buffalo and heading to Mishawaka, Boyd said. Fifteen people on the bus were injured but none had life-threatening injuries.
Boyd said the injured passengers were taken to hospitals in South Bend and to IU Health LaPorte hospital.
Mollenhauer said he was surprised the bus was able to stay upright and didn't overturn, which could have resulted in more serious injuries to the passengers.
"I couldn't believe it when I got here," Mollenhauer said. "How that driver was able to keep the bus upright, probably a lot of luck and just being a good driver."
He said there were about 70 to 80 people in the bus. The rest of the passengers were taken to New Prairie High School to stay warm until another bus picked them up.
Mollenhauer said seven ambulances responded to the scene and firefighters from Kankakee Township, Center Township and Springfield Township responded to the crash. Indiana State Police also assisted deputies in the crash.
The crash temporarily caused deputies to close the eastbound lanes. By 6 p.m., traffic was moving on U.S. 20 but deputies were still on scene.
Mollenhauer said weather conditions caused slide-offs on LaPorte County roads but none resulted in serious injuries.
According to the National Weather Service, the area is expected to remain under a winter weather advisory until 3 p.m. Thursday. The area was suppose to get 3 inches to 5 inches of snow.
In an unrelated crash in Illinois, a driver of a vehicle heading south on Ill. 394 near U.S. 30 lost control early Wednesday, causing the vehicle to break through a barrier wall.
Illinois State Police said the vehicle then collided with a pickup truck in the northbound lanes. Troopers said the car flipped over and caught fire, but injuries were minor.
* This story has been corrected from an earlier version.