Colin McGrath was resting on his friend’s shoulder on the St. Ignatius College Prep hockey team’s bus Saturday evening after a tournament in Indiana.
“All of a sudden I hear a crash, bang, and I blacked out,” said McGrath, a player on the school’s junior varsity Wolfpack team.
A semitruck had plowed into their bus as the team returned to a hotel from dinner in Warsaw, about 50 miles south of South Bend.
McGrath woke up on top of his friend, shattered glass was strewn everywhere.
“I picked up my friend and some pedestrian came and opened the emergency door for us,” he said. “After that it was just walking, freaking out, just getting out and figuring out what was happening and getting everyone safe.”
McGrath was seated in the rear of the bus, near where the truck struck it.
“If I was one row back, it would’ve been a lot worse,” he said.
Sixteen students were hurt and three of them were taken in “very critical” condition to Fort Wayne Lutheran Hospital, police said.
McGrath suffered a dislocated shoulder and swollen jaw, he said. His left arm was in a sling as he returned to class Monday morning, wearing his Wolfpack hockey jersey.
The crash happened around 8 p.m. Saturday. The school’s junior varsity hockey team had competed in a tournament at Culver Military Academy.
Felony DUI charges were pending against a semi driver who police say ran a red light and crashed into a bus carrying 23 students and two hockey coaches.
One of the seriously injured students was discharged from a hospital Sunday evening, school spokeswoman Kristyn Hartman said Monday. Two other students were expected to remain hospitalized for three to five more days, she said.
Ten others on the bus were uninjured, police said. All were taken by another school bus to Lutheran Kosciusko Hospital, where officers notified relatives, police said. The students are 14 to 17 years old.
The seriously injured players will require more surgery for internal injuries, McGrath said.
McGrath was eager to leave the hospital and reunite with his team.
“I didn’t want to be there because I wanted to be with my teammates. We all stayed together and prayed,” he said.
Members of the team have been visiting the hospitalized players, he said. The whole team plans to visit them again sometime this week, McGrath said.
The students were returning from dinner when the crash happened, according to school officials. The bus driver was turning left off U.S. 30 when the semi driver went through a red light and struck the rear of the bus, flipping the bus on its side, police said.
The semi driver continued west and was stopped less than a mile away after driving off the road and into a ditch, police said. Police officers on the scene “detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and in the cab of the semi,” according to police.
Police said they already were responding to calls reporting a semi driver “swerving into other lanes and driving at excessive speed” before being alerted that the driver had crashed into the school bus.
The driver, 58, from Brooklyn, New York, was in custody and facing charges of driving while intoxicated and causing great bodily harm.
In an email to parents Sunday, the school said it was “happy to share that coaches were able to speak with all three students who remain in the hospital. They say they were heartened to hear the young men ask about their brothers on the team.”
Hockey director and varsity head coach Spencer Montgomery thanked the police and emergency crews who responded. “They were timely, organized and put the health of our boys at the forefront,” he said.
A Mass for the team will be held at the Church of the Holy Family at 3:30 p.m. Monday. The school said students will also be provided with counseling.