Cause for Indianapolis Fatal School Bus Crash Still a Mystery

By Scott Sarvay
By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

March 14, 2012 Updated Mar 14, 2012 at 9:54 AM EDT

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Indiana State Police say the school bus was in good working condition before the fatal crash on Monday that took the lives of the bus driver and one student passenger.

The autopsy on 60-year-old Thomas Spencer, the bus driver, didn’t show any signs of a medical condition that may have caused him to drive into the bridge on Indianapolis’s south east side.

It happened just before 8:00 a.m. Monday in Indianapolis. Police have identified the two victims as Spencer, the bus driver, and 5-year-old Donasty Smith, a female student.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police (IMPD) say the bus was coming from Lighthouse Charter School on the city’s southeast side when it struck the bridge near Emerson and Southeastern Avenues.
The crash was just two miles away from the school.

IMPD reports 50 students were on the bus, ranging from five to 16-years-old. Two students were critically hurt—they and eight others were sent to a local hospital. The remaining uninjured students were sent back to school on another bus to be picked-up by parents. School was cut short Monday, and it was a difficult day for all involved.

“I saw one of them laying on the ground covered up. It’s sad,” said a woman standing nearby. “And then my mom called and said she saw on the news that one of the kids passed away and then the bus driver had passed away, and that’s very sad. It breaks my heart.”

That woman and another mother are now questioning how safe schools buses really are.

“They talk about mandatory seat belts. Ok, why don't they have seat belts on the school buses?” said one mother. “I agree, I agree. That's why my son don't ride the bus. I take him to school everyday. I don't put him on the school bus,” said the other.

Monday night, several people posted comments on Indiana’s NewsCenter’s web story saying they think there needs to be seat belts on school buses, and that these deaths could’ve been prevented.

Many people in Indy describe the fatal crash as a tragedy. “I feel for the parents. I have small children, I have grand kids, you know? It’s a hard thing,” one man said.

“[It’s] Very upsetting. I've got kids the same age. Just only imagine what the family's going through right now. And it's just a tragedy,” another man said.

A third man interviewed suspects something happened to the bus driver. “Whether heart attack or stroke, something like that may have happened to him,” he said.

However, authorities say they do not know what caused the accident.

“It is unclear at this time why the driver hit the abutment, whether there was a medical condition involved or another vehicle involved or something, but IMPD will take care of that investigation and we’ll follow up on that,” said Cpt. Rita Burris, Public Information Officer with the Indianapolis Fire Department.

IMPD is conducting an investigation. Indiana’s NewsCenter will have more details as they become available.

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