Tim Evans, Michael Boren and John Tuohy, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS - The driver of the Indianapolis church bus that overturned, killing three people, told police the brakes failed as it rolled down an interstate exit ramp loaded with church campers.
Driver Dennis Maurer, 68, of Indianapolis, said when the brakes failed he could not prevent the bus from hitting a raised median barrier and overturning Saturday, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police report.
Maurer was negotiating an exit ramp off I-465 when the crash took place.
The accident remains under investigation. The bus, built in 1986, and its cargo of parents, teenagers and children were less than a mile from Colonial Hills Baptist Church when the tragedy occurred. About 20 people were injured.
The bus careened off the exit ramp, sending terrified passengers on a roller-coaster-like ride that ended with the bus on its side on the southbound lanes of North Keystone Avenue. It was, as one witness described, "mass chaos."
Those killed in the accident were identified Sunday morning as the church's youth pastor, Chad Phelps, his wife Courtney, and Tonya Weindorf, a long-time church member and mother of five. Chad Phelps is the son of the church's senior pastor Chuck Phelps.
A church official said Courtney Phelps was pregnant and due to give birth in about a month. Her unborn child also was killed in the crash.
"They're with God in heaven," church deacon Jeff Leffew said during a news conference outside the church Sunday. "We know that. Without a doubt."
Leffew said Weindorf's son and the Phelpses' 2-year-old son were among the about 35 people on the bus when it crashed. They were treated at hospitals and released.
As of noon Sunday, seven youths were still being treated for injuries at area hospitals.
Indianapolis Metropolitan police removed the wrecked bus overnight and reopened the road.
The bus was one of two returning from Camp CoBeAc in Prudenville, Mich. Campers had arrived there Monday and left Saturday morning.
Witnesses told authorities the bus was traveling "at a high rate of speed'' as the driver tried to navigate the ramp.