INDIANAPOLIS (TheBlaze/AP) — An Indianapolis church’s youth pastor, his pregnant wife, and a mother of five—who was with her special-needs child—were the three passengers killed in a church camp bus crash over the weekend.
Saturday’s crash near Interstate 465 devastated members of Colonial Hills Baptist Church.
Deacon Jeff Leffew said that youth pastor Chad Phelps, his wife Courtney—both in their mid 20s—and chaperone Tonya Weindorf, a 51-year-old mother of five, died In the accident.
Phelps was the son of the church’s senior pastor and became its youth pastor late last year.
Leffew said the Phelps’ were in their mid-20s and expecting their second child next month, according to the Indianapolis Star. The couple’s nearly 2-year-old child, Chase, was injured in the crash. He was treated and released from a hospital Saturday, IU Health spokeswoman Sally Winter said.
Dennis Maurer, a 68-year-old congregation member who was driving the church-owned bus, told authorities that its brakes failed before it struck a raised concrete median and flipped on its side, Indianapolis police said.
There were 40 on board the bus that was returning from northern Michigan. Dozens of passengers were injured, including six teenagers who remained hospitalized Sunday—one of whom was in critical condition.
“We’re going to have a long road, but God is good,” Leffew said at a Sunday news conference.
The bus had nearly completed its 365-mile journey from Camp CoBeAc, near Prudenville, Mich., when it overturned about a mile from the church, where parents were waiting to pick up their children who had just spent a week praying, zip-lining, and playing basketball.
Weindorf “was at camp because she has a special-needs child who wanted to go, and she wanted to go and make it a good week, and according to her husband, it was a great week, and that’s who Tonya was,” said Leffew, who sent four of his own daughters to the camp.
Leffew, of Fishers, said only one of his daughters was on a second bus that pulled into the parking lot, and that he raced to the northern Indianapolis crash site. What he found was surreal – clothing and other items strewn about and windows missing from the bus.
“You’re just praying that it’s not as bad as it looks,” he said Saturday. His daughters escaped with bumps and bruises.
Troy Riggs, Indianapolis’ public safety director, called the crash a “great tragedy.”
“They were not that far from home. … That only adds to the tragedy,” Riggs said Saturday.
Duane Lloyd, who witnessed the crash, told WTHR that he saw the crash happen at about 4:15 p.m., which was about the time Chad Phelps tweeted that the group would arrive at the church.
“I heard a skid. I looked back. I see this bus in the air and people falling out of the bus,” Lloyd said. “I could have gone my whole life without seeing that.”
He said people approached and tried to help.
“People were literally trying to lift the bus,” Lloyd said. “You just try to do what you can do.”
Phelps tweeted a prayer request for safety before the trip:
Three of the six hospitalized teens, including the one in critical condition, were at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Winter said Sunday. The other three were at the Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Many of the patients had head, arm and leg injuries, fire officials said.
Leffew thanked rescue workers and good Samaritans who tried to help after the crash, as well as local churches and businesses that have offered their support.
“We are so grateful for that outpouring of love and care,” he said Sunday.
Here’s a report from CBS News: