Parents of St. Ignatius hockey players wondered for nearly an hour if their children died when a truck driver plowed into their team’s bus after a tournament in Indiana this month.
“None of the boys answered their phones… For 50 minutes we tried to figure out if these boys were alive,” Wendy Cook said Tuesday about her child and 15 others who were injured.
Several parents were at a restaurant ordering dinner, not far from the tournament, when they first heard about the Nov. 12 crash in a phone call from one of the players.
“People were standing up screaming, ‘The bus has rolled over! The bus has rolled over!'” Cook said.
They learned the boys were alive when they arrived at an Indiana emergency department another parent described as a “war zone,” filled with the injured teens.
Three junior varsity players who were seriously injured — one of whom is still receiving treatment — had been transferred to another hospital, adding to the confusion, parents said.
Cook recalled the horrifying experience Tuesday during the announcement of a lawsuit against the truck driver and trucking companies that allegedly allowed the convicted sex offender to get behind the wheel.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times
Police said the driver was drunk, swerving and speeding before he crashed into the bus, flipping it on its side in Warsaw, Indiana, about 50 miles south of South Bend.
The lawsuit was filed in Kosciusko County, Indiana, by the 16 injured players, their parents and two coaches who were on the bus.
“We’re going to find out why this man who had a prior criminal conviction for rape … was driving,” attorney Tim Cavanagh said. “What responsible trucking company would allow this man to drive?”
The truck driver, Victor Santos, 58, of Brooklyn, New York, has already been charged with felony criminal counts of causing serious bodily injury while operating a vehicle and criminal recklessness while armed with a deadly weapon.
He remains in custody in Indiana on a bond that his lawyer tried to reduce earlier this week. Parents of the players said they don’t want to see him out from behind bars. They plan to attend the driver’s next criminal court hearing in January.
“I would never want to see that man out of jail, nor would I ever want to see him behind the wheel of any vehicle again,” parent Eileen Murphy said.
Police have said Santos was seen swerving across a highway and traveling more than 90 mph before he crashed into the school bus.
Santos briefly tapped the brakes as he approached an intersection on U.S. Route 30 in the town of Warsaw, then barreled through a red light and knocked the school bus on its side, officials said.
His blood alcohol level was 0.13%, almost twice the legal limit in Indiana, police said.
The lawsuit alleges counts of negligence and seeks punitive damages. The lawsuit names the companies N&V Trucking Express, B&W Cartage Inc. and B&W International as defendants.
Representatives for the companies and driver did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Parents of two of the seriously injured players spoke with reporters Tuesday. Wendy Cook said her son Alex fractured two bones in his face, suffered a concussion and was having a seizure on the bus when responders found him.
Her son worried that his friend wouldn’t survive. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Is Jack OK? I don’t think Jack is going to live,'” Wendy Cook recalled.
A photo shared with reporters showed Alex Cook and Jack Rogers lying injured outside the rolled-over bus.
“These boys, they’re tough hockey players. But they are emotionally rocked by this,” Wendy Cook said.
The other boy, Jack Rogers, fractured his skull, ribs and injured his pelvis, his father Jeff Rogers said.
“He’s coming along, I guess, just like the rest of his teammates. It’s a day-by-day process. He’ll have a long road to recovery,” said Rogers, who also coaches the varsity hockey team, but whose son was on the junior varsity bus involved in the crash.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times
Karl D’Cunha recalled seeing the driver arrive in the ER in cuffs, red-eyed and realizing this man was the truck driver who crashed into the bus with his child.
He looked “cold, robotic, like nothing happened,” D’Cunha said. “We want this guy put away from a long time. He should never have been put on the road.”
D’Cunha said he and other parents are now trying to protect their kids from the fallout of the crash, including the new lawsuit.
“They have so much on their plate right now,” he said. “One, they won’t understand the full extent of it until they’re older. But I know, as parents, we’re unified. We all want to do what’s best for our kids.”
Provided by Cavanagh Law Group