DEMOTTE — A bus carrying the Griffith High School boys basketball team that was headed to compete at the semistate tournament was sideswiped and rolled over Saturday after a motorist spilled a drink on herself, police said.
A total of 29 people, including 21 students, were taken to three area hospitals to be treated for non-life threatening injuries, Indiana State Police said.
Freshman boys basketball coach David Garrett was airlifted to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. His injuries were described as non-life threatening.
As of 9 p.m. Saturday, all 21 students have been treated and released as well as three coaches, the team trainer and bus driver, according to a news release. Garrett remains hospitalized in stable condition at Advocate Christ.
“As we continue to evaluate the status of our student athletes, we will work closely with the IHSAA and Marion to determine our next steps,” Superintendent Pete Morikis said regarding rescheduling the semistate matchup.
Griffith Public Schools will have counselors available to students and staff next week to help heal the emotional wounds.
The team was on its way about 12:10 p.m. to Saturday's semistate game against Marion at Lafayette Jefferson when a driver in a 2001 Kia on the southbound lanes of Interstate 65 near the DeMotte exit sideswiped the bus, troopers said.
Dominique T. Small, 23, of Terre Haute, was driving the Kia when the lid of her drink came off, spilling the liquid on her. That caused her to crash into the bus, Indiana State Police said.
The bus, which had been traveling on the southbound right lane, went off the roadway and rolled over, police said.
Mark Kadowaki, a surgeon from North Carolina, was on his way to a funeral in Wisconsin when he came upon the crash scene.
"When I arrived, the bus was upside down," Kadowaki said. "There were still some people trapped in the bus."
Added Kadowaki, "One gentleman had to be extracted from the bus by the emergency crew. Everyone else was able to come out of the bus under their own power or with assistance."
Kadowaki described a sense of shock from players and family on the scene, but that emergency crews remained calm and diligent.
"The emergency professionals came from several jurisdictions," Kadowaki said. "They were very competent and very professional."
A bus from the Kankakee Valley School Corp. and ambulances transported 20 people to Franciscan Health in Rensselaer, where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
On Saturday afternoon, about 50 people were in the waiting room at Franciscan Health as players and coaches were in the back seeking medical treatment. A group of cheerleaders, wearing black and gold uniforms, stood and talked in one corner. Parents and friends sat in the chairs and quietly talked.
"It could've been a lot worse," said Dustin Nelson, the Griffith girls basketball coach and the school's assistant principal.
Griffith High School Principal Brian Orkis said all of the people who were on the bus had been accounted for.
"We want to say thanks to everyone who has extended prayers to our team," Orkis said. "We are grateful for that."
At Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville, the mood was calm as a handful of people talked among themselves while waiting in the lobby outside the emergency room.
Evelyn Morrison, spokeswoman for Methodist Hospitals, said four people who were injured in the bus crash were taken to the Southlake campus in Merrillville.
Two patients were 18 years old, one was 8 years old and the other was a 28-year-old person. All four were discharged Saturday night from the hospital and sent home, Morrison said.
The bus driver, Andriana Wright, 54, of Griffith, and a basketball coach were transported to Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Illinois. They were each treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Small and a passenger in her Kia were taken to Franciscan Health in Rensselaer, where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The game against Marion was postponed. Jason Wille of the IHSAA said they will discuss the situation with Griffith administrators Sunday about a possible makeup date and time.
IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox was at Franciscan Health in Rensselaer Saturday speaking to Griffith officials.
Orkis said it was too early to say when the game would be rescheduled.
"That isn't at the forefront of our minds right now," he said.
Superintendent Morikis in a prepared statement thanked Kadowaki for helping the team on the scene of the crash.
"Our hearts are heavy today," Morikis said. "What began with excitement — as the fulfillment of a dream to play in the semistate tournament — has ended tragically. We are praying today for the members of our Griffith school family, who have been injured."
The Griffith Clergy Association planned a prayer service for the people involved in the crash, according to a news release from Griffith Town Council President Rick Ryfa. The service will start at 2 p.m. Sunday in Central Park at 600 N. Broad St.
"Tonight we pray for those injured and their families and thank God that the accident was not worse," he said in the prepared statement. "The town of Griffith would like to thank all of the first responders who did a tremendous job at the scene of this accident."