DOWNS, Ill. (AP) — A semitrailer heading the wrong way on an interstate collided head-on with a school bus carrying members of an Illinois high school girls’ basketball team, killing the truck driver and an adult on the bus, authorities said Thursday.
Illinois State Police said eight girls on the bus were injured in the head-on crash Wednesday night on Interstate 74 near Downs, a village in central Illinois about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. Police said the bus driver and a coach also were injured.
The girls’ team was returning from a game at Champaign Central, Normal West High School athletic director Stan Lewis told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph. The girls had what were described as non-life threatening injuries and were taken from the scene by ambulance, police said.
Police said 72-year-old Charles Crabtree of Normal was the bus passenger who died. He was a volunteer with Normal West.
Lewis initially told the newspaper that a junior varsity team was on the bus, but he later described it as the school’s freshman team. He said some junior varsity players also made the trip.
Parents and friends of the students involved in the crash gathered at the school for updates as word of the crash spread on social media. Dayna Brown, a spokeswoman for the McLean County Unit 5 school district, said Normal West will be open as usual Thursday, with counselors on hand.
“People care about each other in this school and this community, and I think they just wanted to be together during this horrible tragedy,” Brown said.
Preliminary reports indicate the truck driver was a 34-year-old man from Iowa who was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes, police said. The bus was heading westbound.
The westbound lanes of the interstate were closed following the crash for the investigation.