Spilled drink distracted driver, caused team bus rollover: police

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Authorities say a bus carrying a northwest Indiana high school basketball team overturned on an interstate. Twitter photo

DEMOTTE, Ind. — A northwest Indiana high school basketball coach was airlifted to a hospital Saturday after a driver who spilled her drink sideswiped a bus carrying 27 players and staff, causing it to overturn on Interstate 65 on the way to a state tournament game.

The Griffith High School boys basketball team was headed to its state tournament semifinal in Lafayette when the rollover occurred around 12:30 p.m. on I-65 near DeMotte, authorities said. The bus landed on the side of the roadway with part of its roof smashed in.

Superintendent Peter Morikis said “several” players and coaches were injured and that everyone on the bus was taken to one of three hospitals. Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas said none of the injuries was life-threatening.

Morikis said freshman coach David Garrett was airlifted to Christ Advocate Medical Center in Oak Lawn.  Morikis didn’t describe his injuries.

“Our hearts are heavy today,” Morikis said, describing the pain that followed “what began with excitement — as the fulfillment of a dream to play in the semi-state tournament . . . We are praying today for the members of our Griffith school family who have been injured.”

Wojas said Dominique T. Small, 23, of Terre Haute, Ind., was southbound in the left lane when the lid of her drink came off and the drink spilled on her. Small tried to grab the drink but lost control of her 2001 Kia and sideswiped the bus, which was southbound in the right lane, Wojas said.

She said 21 students and six adults were on the bus.

Small and a passenger in her car also were taken to a hospital, but their injuries weren’t serious, Wojas said.

Dr. Mark Kadowaki, a surgeon from North Carolina who was traveling to Wisconsin, said he arrived on the scene shortly after the accident and found the bus “upside-down.”

“There were still some people trapped in the bus,” Kadowaki said. “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.”

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Dustin Nelson, assistant principal at Griffith High School.

Stacy Adams, the school’s athletic director, said emergency crews advised everyone on the bus to receive medical attention “for preventive measures.” He said other buses that were carrying fans to the game weren’t involved in the crash and had been directed to return to the school.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association said the team’s game against Marion has been postponed and they’ll talk with Griffith administrators Sunday about a makeup date.

No one had been ticketed or charged as of Saturday evening.

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