All 23 people injured in Pa. church bus-car crash are recovering at home

June 27, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • A school bus from Cumberland Valley Christian School of Chambersburg, Pa., and a car were involved in an accident Sunday on Interstate 81. No one was seriously injured
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — All 23 people injured in Sunday’s collision between a car and a bus on Interstate 81 in Franklin County, Pa., were recovering at home Monday, according to a health system official and those involved.

Fifteen patients at Chambersburg Hospital and eight patients at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital were discharged by Monday morning, a Summit Health spokeswoman said.

Many of the injured were elementary school-aged children on their way to a Christian camp in Quakertown, Pa. The accident between the two northbound vehicles occurred near exit 17 in Chambersburg.

The bus from The Open Door Church, which operates Cumberland Valley Christian School, flipped on its roof alongside the highway.

“It was rather unnerving to see that and wonder if anyone got killed. ... Obviously, God had His hand on everybody because it could’ve been a huge tragedy,” said Chuck Rathel, children’s pastor at The Open Door Church.

Senior Pastor Mike Sanders said Monday the children and adults were recovering at home or attending follow-up doctor’s appointments throughout the day.

“The Lord intervened and protected the children and parents. There were also everyday people, before the police and firefighters arrived, who jumped on that bus and started pulling people out,” Sanders said.

One man in a U.S. Army uniform was seen pulling children out the back door of the bus, Sanders said. Emergency personnel were extremely professional, he said.

“It was an amazing display of teamwork and the human spirit,” Sanders said.

Pennsylvania State Police said Edward Shaffer, 79, of Hagerstown, was driving the Cadillac involved in the 4:40 p.m. crash. Trooper Tom Pinkerton said Monday it was unknown if any criminal charges would be filed in the incident.

An accident reconstruction team was called in, but initial indications were that the Cadillac veered in front of the bus as it attempted to pass, police said.

Rathel said the trip was canceled, but he hopes to hold a special event in the coming weeks for the children involved. The youths participated in fundraisers for the trip and some sold candles in support of their friends who needed financial assistance.

That sense of camaraderie persisted for the children at the accident scene, according to Sanders and Rathel.

“All my kids were laying on the ground. They were asking about the other kids. They were checking on the others because they couldn’t see them,” Rathel said.

One girl, who decided to attend camp at the last minute, provided comfort to her sister, who was trapped until emergency crews could free her.

“One of the pieces of guardrail had come through and was inches from her head,” Rathel said.

Traveling with the children were bus driver Joseph Henderson, his wife and three adult counselors. Their injuries included a broken fingertip, a broken shoulder and torn chest cartilage.

Rathel, who asked the community to join the church in rejoicing, said he thinks the lesson from Sunday’s collision is that God is in control in all situations.

“He said, 'I'll never leave you. I'll never forsake you.' And that was definitely true yesterday,” Rathel said.

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