Illinois State Police are investigating a crash between a semi and a school bus carrying the Normal West High School junior varsity girls basketball team.
The accident occurred around 8:32 p.m. Wednesday on westbound I-74 near mile marker 137, two miles east of the Main Street exit near Bloomington.
The team was reportedly returning home from a game at Champaign Central.
State Police Trooper Tracy Lillard told reporters preliminary investigation revealed the semi was traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-74 and collided head-on with the school bus. Traffic Crash Reconstruction Officers and Commercial Motor Vehicle Officers were on the scene and westbound I-74 at mile marker 137 near Downs/Bloomington was expected to be closed for several hours.
Lillard said there is one confirmed fatality from the school bus. The victim is identified as Charles Crabtree, 72, of Normal who was a volunteer with the basketball team.
Lillard said the team’s coach, the school bus driver and the driver of the semi were life-flighted from the scene to Peoria with “serious injuries.”
Normal West Principal Dave Johnson, in a notice to parents, said Coach Steve Price was undergoing tests at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Johnson said Price was responsive and was talking to those at the hospital with him.
OSF HealthCare officials say Price is listed in fair condition, and that the bus driver is in critical condition.
The driver of the semi, 34-year-old Ryan E. Hute from Iowa, was pronounced dead at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center at 11:15 p.m.
Johnson said the eight students on board the bus were transported to Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington with non-life threatening injuries. All of them were treated and released.
Johnson said the school will have extra staff on hand Thursday “to help support students and staff that are affected by this news.”
A post on the McLean County Unit 5 Facebook page read as follows: A Normal West bus was in a crash tonight. Parents of players should come to the school. Staff is on hand at the school to help support students and parents. Please keep our Normal West family in your thoughts.
The Normal West Community High School girl’s varsity basketball team will play their home game Thursday night after Wednesday’s tragic school bus accident. The community is asked to pack the Normal West gym at their game versus Richwoods High School to support the team. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.