University of Saint Francis Bus Involved In Fatal Crash

By David Wheaton - 21Alive

October 20, 2013 Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM EDT

HAMMOND, Ind. (21Alive) - A Hammond man died yesterday evening, when a car he was a passenger in, crashed into a bus on east bound I-80/94 east of Indianapolis Blvd.

Preliminary investigation by Senior Trooper Brian McCall revealed that at approximately 8:40 p.m., Saturday, October 19, 2013, evening a 1996 Toyota, Tercel, driven by Shawnna Popenhagen, 21 of Hammond, was east bound on I-80/94 at the 2.9 mile marker (this is east of Indianapolis Blvd.) in the right lane. Her passenger (and boyfriend) Joshua Walberg, 21 of Hammond, were arguing when he grabbed the steering wheel. Popenhagen overcorrected the Toyota to the left, which spun the Tercel around into the right center lane until it was almost perpendicular to an on-coming charter bus. The bus was unable to avoid the Tercel and hit the driver’s front head on.

The bus, was owned by Excursions Incorporated out of Fort Wayne, and was driven by William Johnson, 64 of Upland, Indiana. The bus held a total of 39 people (one driver and thirty-eight passengers). The bus was loaded with coaches, football players and cheerleaders from the University of Saint Francis out of Fort Wayne. They were coming home from a game in Joliet, Illinois.

Popenhagen was taken to Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois by ambulance with incapacitating injuries to her. She was wearing a seat belt. Walberg was NOT wearing a seat belt and was pronounced dead at the scene by a deputy with the Lake County Coroner of blunt force trauma.

No one on the bus was injured. Another charter bus arrived and took the passengers back to Fort Wayne.

The right three lanes and the exit lane were closed for reconstruction of the crash, removal of the injured and deceased, towing of the vehicles, and clean-up of the road. The far left lane remained opened.

Trooper McCall stated, “Seat belts are one of the most effective safety devices for preventing death and injury. There is a reason for wearing them. They save lives.”

Family has been notified.

Assisting: Reconstructionist Trooper Lawrence McFarrin, ISP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division Trooper Tim Grayson, Detective Sergeant Rick Strong and Detective Mark Brletic, Lake County Coroner, Indiana Department of Transportation, and Hammond Fire and Ambulance

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