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Bus driver, student killed in school bus crash

At least one person died March 12, 2012 in a school bus accident on the city's Southeastside.The accident occurred in the 900 block of South Emerson Avenue near English Avenue. Emerson is blocked at this hour.
At least one person died March 12, 2012 in a school bus accident on the city's Southeastside.The accident occurred in the 900 block of South Emerson Avenue near English Avenue. Emerson is blocked at this hour.Bill McCleery

Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET: A bus driver and a 5-year-old student were killed Monday morning when a school bus crashed into a bridge outside of Indianapolis, NBC affiliate WTHR reports.

Ten other students were injured after the bus struck a bridge support beam on the city's east side, officials said. Two of the injured students are listed in critical condition.

Police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Schneider says the bus carrying students to Lighthouse Charter School struck a bridge abutment about 7:45 am Monday in the 900 block of Emerson Avenue, near Southeastern Avenue.

The victims were identified as Thomas Spencer II, 60, and Donasty Smith, 5.

Aerial images from WTHR show the front of the school bus mashed into one of the support pillars for a train bridge.

Indianapolis Fire Department Capt. Rita Burris said the two critically injured students and eight others whom she characterized as "walking wounded" were taken to Indianapolis hospitals. WISH-TV reported that one of the injured was a child whom emergency crews had to rescue from under the front wheel of the bus.

Burris said fire department crews spent about 45 minutes extricating four people from the bus.

The driver of the bus died at the scene, and there is no word yet on what led to the crash. The bus was transporting children to Lighthouse Charter School on Sloan Avenue, just north of Beech Grove.

WISH-TV reports that as many as 50 children ranging from ages 5 to 16 may have been on the bus. The uninjured students were taken to the school about two miles away.

Burris said witnesses saw nothing unusual before the driver's side of the bus struck the concrete pillar of the old railroad bridge. The pavement was wet Monday, but she did not know whether it had been raining at the time of the crash.

Mitch Gibbony, who works for Beelman Trucking Co. adjacent to the scene of the crash, told he was on his way to work when he saw “lots of smoke.” 

“By the time I got there, the bus was already wrecked. I stopped and helped the kids get outside," Gibbony told the newspaper. "There were a lot of kids on that bus.”

One witness told WISH-TV she was on her way to work, headed northbound on Emerson Avenue, when she saw the crash.

"I couldn't figure out what it was that was under the bridge," Tami Presley told the TV channel. "As I was pulling under I just see kids just start jumping off. They were all screaming and crying."

Presley told WISH-TV she heard screaming and crying and saw many kids with bloody noses.

"I just tried to mostly console the children," Presley said.

Lighthouse student Dimitri Smith, 15, missed the bus and was riding to school with his grandfather when he saw the accident scene.

Smith told The Indianapolis Star the bus driver was "a really cool guy."   

"He wanted all of us to be safe, and he was a good bus driver," he said.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was on the scene, comforting firefighters and other rescue personnel working the scene, according to The Indianapolis Star. 

"Hearing about the situation this morning and how tragic it was ,I just wanted to come out here to maybe help prop a few people up, and I'll be going out to the school this morning to do the same thing," Ballard said. "I just wanted to come out here."

About 600 students attend the kindergarten through 10th grade school. Miller Transportation has a contract with the school to operate the bus, and there haven’t been any prior accidents with them, said Cheryl Bates, director of operations for the Massachusetts-based Lighthouse Academies, a national nonprofit network of charter schools in seven states.

“Students that are not injured are on their way to school right now,” she told “We’ve got counselor service there for students and staff to process what has happened… We’re just all pretty saddened and shocked by this horrible incident.”

The school planned to dismiss students early Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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