Updated 11/30/12 – 5 p.m.
EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (CBS) — A van carrying a dozen teenagers returning from school basketball tournament veered off the road Thursday night and rolled down an embankment in East Chicago, Ind.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports five people were hospitalized after the crash, including one teen who was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. That young man and an assistant coach remained hospitalized Friday evening.
The crash occurred at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday on Cline Avenue near the Gary Avenue exit ramp to the Indiana Toll Road, and appeared to be the result of the bus driver speeding up to avoid a tailgater.
The teens are all students at City Baptist Schools in Hammond, Ind., and members of the school’s varsity basketball team. The driver is the team’s assistant coach.
School officials said a tailgater was driving right behind the school’s van, repeatedly flashing his lights. The coach driving the van sped up to try and get away, and that’s when the van spun out.
Witnesses described a harrowing scene.
“When I arrived, there was maybe nine young men outside of the van. They were bruised, disoriented. They were crying, praying; but there was one individual that was still trapped underneath the van,” xxx said.
The team’s starting point guard was pinned under the van. That’s when the 17-year-old’s teammates sprang into action.
“One of the boys was trapped under the van. The boys were able to lift the van enough to get his head out,” principal John Francis said.
He visited the young victim today in the ICU at Loyola on Friday, and said the teen was expected to fully recover from his traumatic experience.
“He was sitting up, he was eating some pizza at his tray, and was encouraged that he was going to get to go home soon,” Francis said.
He said that’s fitting for a school whose mascot is the Overcomer – a name chosen because many of the students are underprivileged, and have essentially overcome the odds just by making it to City Baptist.
“We feel like God protected our boys,” Francis said. “Very, very happy that it wasn’t a different outcome.”
The only other victim still in the hospital on Friday was the assistant coach, who suffered a fractured skull in the wreck.
As for the tailgater, that driver has yet to be located.