Bus crash kills four returning from church camp

by Samantha Gobba
Posted 7/29/13, 03:00 pm

A bus carrying a group of Indianapolis teenagers home from church camp crashed about a mile from its destination Saturday, killing four and injuring dozens more.

The Colonial Hills Baptist Church youth group was returning from a week-long stay at a Michigan summer camp when the accident happened. Driver Dennis Maurer, 68, tried to avoid a concrete median, but said the brakes failed and the bus flipped on its side. 

A witness, Duane Lloyd, reported hearing a skid and watching the accident unfold: “I looked back. I see this bus in the air and people falling out of the bus. I could have gone my whole life without seeing that.”

Troy Riggs, Indianapolis’ public safety director, said the location of the accident only added to the tragedy: “They were not that far from home.”

Chaperone Tonya Weindorf, youth pastor Chad Phelps, and his wife Courtney, who was eight months pregnant, died in the accident. Six teenagers remain hospitalized, one in critical condition. 

Weindorf is the mother of five, and joined the trip so her own special needs child could attend camp, according to deacon Jeff Leffew: “She wanted to make it a good week, and according to her husband, it was a great week, and that’s who Tonya was.”

Phelps, the son of the church’s senior pastor, became the youth minister last year. He and his wife, who taught piano, were expecting their second child.  

Phelps posted updates from the summer camp trip to his Twitter account, @ChadPhelps, on the way back to Indianapolis. That morning, he wrote, “On the bus on the way home! Pray for safety.” The last thing he wrote, 15 minutes before the crash, was the name of the camp: “Cobeac.”

On the day the bus departed for the Michigan camp, the church updated its Facebook status to read: “Pray for a group of 75 teens, juniors, and sponsors that head to camp this week. Pray for safety and that God would do a great work for His glory!”

An update half an hour after the crash asked for prayer. By Monday, more than 1,300 people had commented. On Sunday, the church posted an update, which said in part, “Through your prayers and the power of the Holy Spirit, the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be magnified as His people find Him to be sufficient even now.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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