Official word tonight from the Kosciusko County Fatal Accident Crash Team is that more than 50 Wawasee students were injured in today’s crash involving four school buses. That is a number that could rise as parents evaluate their children at home.
Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department deputies and emergency personnel from several agencies were notified at 3:30 p.m. via a 911 call that multiple school buses collided in the area of 7400 N. SR 13, just north of North Webster. (See related story)
According to KCSD Sgt. Chad Hill, the first arriving emergency personnel found numerous children located in an adjacent field beside the highway after being led off the buses immediately following the crash.
Members of the North Webster EMS and Fire Department began a massive triage to evaluate over 100 children and calm what they described as “a chaotic scene.” Ambulances from North Webster, Syracuse and Warsaw Multi-Township EMS were assembled to transport the injured to both IU/Goshen Health Center and Kosciusko Community Hospital, Warsaw.
Of the four school bus drivers, three were injured. The driver of bus 28 was airlifted from nearby Wawasee Middle School and taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. The driver, identified to StaceyPageOnline.com as John Wagoner, was listed in fair to serious condition but undergoing surgery as of about 8 p.m. Police are not releasing names.
KCH officials said 43 students were brought in with injuries or to be evaluated. Four students were transported to IU Health Goshen for medical attention. Another large group of students were taken to Wawasee Middle School where doctors from Syracuse Family Practice were on hand for evaluations.
Investigators said the number of injured students has already expanded from directly after the initial crash and could potentially increase this evening or even Thursday after parents evaluate their children at home.
Preliminary investigations by the Kosciusko County crash investigation team indicates all four buses were southbound on SR 13 with students from both Wawasee Middle and High School ranging from grades 6 through 12. The lead bus had stopped to unload a student when, within moments, a “chain reaction” effect occurred as bus 28 rear-ended bus 44, driven by Julie Close, at a high rate of speed.
Members of the Indiana State Police are currently assisting the county F.A.C.T. with troopers from the Commercial Vehicle Section to determine if the crash was a result of human or mechanical error. However, they said the final conclusion may take several days.
All bus drivers involved will have drug and alcohol testing performed as compliant to their commercial driver’s license requirements and procedures.