Monday, June 22, 2009

One Dead In Football Team Bus Crash

((HT: TSN/CP))

One person is dead and 11 people were sent to hospital after a Greyhound bus carrying the London Silverbacks semi-pro football team collided with an SUV in Indiana ((pictured, thanks WANE-TV)), the Canadian team's assistant head coach said Sunday.

Jason Kenemy said the injured included team owner Alan Lazar, who was airlifted to a hospital in Fort Wayne in critical but stable condition, and the bus driver -- who was praised for his actions.

Kenemy said Lazar is expected to be OK, adding the team members suffered relatively minor injuries.

All of them had been released from hospital by Sunday evening.

"Otherwise everyone escaped," Kenemy said. "We have our lives, so we're thankful."

The crash happened on I-69 at about 11:30 a.m. -- as they were about to pull over for lunch -- when the southbound SUV blew a tire, crossed the median and collided head-on with the northbound bus and burst into flames, killing the SUV's driver.

Kenemy said the bus driver swerved to try and avoid a collision, but the bus remained upright.

"He did an amazing job. We ended up having a collision but the bus did not flip over, thank God."

There were 38 people on the bus, including players, coaches, cheerleaders and other team employees, Kenemy said.

Some players were not on the bus because they had used their own cars for the trip.

The team was provided with a new bus and returned home late Sunday night, said defensive coach Dennis Angyal, who had did not accompany the team home as he had a business meeting in Lansing, Mich., on Monday.

He noted many of the players had to be at their regular jobs on Monday. Players in the semi-pro league, who are aged 18 and up, do not get paid.

Angyal said long-time bus driver Jim Bereston was the "hero of the day" for ensuring the bus did not roll, and for helping others get out even though he was hurt. Bereston accompanied the team home but a different driver was behind the wheel.

Kenemy said the National Guard had been on a training exercise nearby and were on the scene within minutes of the crash.

Those on the bus who were not injured were taken to St. Anthony's Parish Hall in Angola.

"The Catholic Church here has been tremendous. They've fed us, they've taken care of us, been there for us with some counselling," Kenemy said.

"You never want to go through something like this but it shows you the human spirit."

The Angola fire department had initially said 14 people were hospitalized and that the team was the Mustangs, but Kenemy said the bus had a Mustangs logo on it.

The Silverbacks play in the North American Football League, and are an affiliate of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.

The team was on its way home from Indianapolis, where they had lost to the Tornados 32-0 on Saturday.

Here's coverage from our friends at WANE-TV in Fort Wayne...

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