Charges possible for bus driver


GREENFIELD — Prosecutors and police met Wednesday to discuss whether the driver of a church bus that overturned on Interstate 70 should be held responsible for the death of a 6-year-old who was on board.

Three people remained hospitalized Wednesday afternoon follow-ing the accident that killed 6-year-old Jacob Williams and injured 11 others.

Among those still hospitalized is Charles Goodman, 53, of Gary, who investigators said was driving with a suspended license at the time of the crash Tuesday afternoon near the 107 mile marker on eastbound I-70.

Goodman remained at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in fair condition Wednesday afternoon.

Indiana law states a person who is operating with a suspended license commits a Level 5 felony “if the operation of the motor vehicle results in the death of another person.”

The bus was carrying 12 parishioners from St. Jude Family Deliverance Worship Center in Gary to a youth conference in Dayton when it swerved off the interstate, slammed into a tree and rolled onto its side before catching fire.

On Wednesday, investigators still were working to determine the cause of the crash, but they said there was no evidence of any mechanical failure.

Hancock County prosecutors met with Indiana State Police officers Wednesday morning to discuss the ongoing crash investigation.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he anticipated a full crash report would be sent to his office by the end of the week.

“If the evidence supports charges, we would want to work as quickly as possible,” Eaton said.

Eleven people — the driver and 10 passengers — were treated at area hospitals for injuries sustained in the crash. Seven of those patients were brought to Hancock Regional Hospital, treated and released, said Rob Matt, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

Two adults, including Goodman, were treated at Methodist and remain hospitalized in fair condition, spokesman Gene Ford said.

Three children, including one who initially was taken to Hancock Regional Hospital and was later transferred, were treated at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Two of those patients were released, and one remained hospitalized in good condition Wednesday afternoon, Ford said.

The crash stopped traffic on eastbound I-70 for several hours, while emergency responders from across the county worked to aid victims, direct traffic and clear debris.

Traffic was rerouted through Greenfield on Tuesday afternoon, and with so many Hancock County first-responders assisting at the crash scene, dispatchers said they did their best to navigate other emergency calls by relying on neighboring agencies to fill the gaps.

Eight ambulances from Hancock County were dispatched to the scene, along with one helicopter, and at least a dozen officers assisted Indiana State Police at the crash site.

“Everybody helps each other out in these situations,” said John Jokantas, director of the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center.

Five dispatchers staffed the 911 center Tuesday, and Jokantas said he was proud of how his employees handled the commotion the accident caused. Jokantas spent Wednesday afternoon listening to recordings of calls that came in from the crash site to evaluate what his staff did well and what they can approve on in the future.

Hancock County Emergency Management Agency director Misty Moore said emergency agencies across the county have an agreement to assist one another when needed.

Her office helped briefly Tuesday to make sure first-responders had all the tools and resources needed to aid victims and clear the scene.

“If resources get overwhelmed, they can rely on other agencies in and outside of the county to help,” she said.

In addition to Goodman not having a valid license, police said the bus he was driving lacked registration required by the U.S. Department of Transportation needed to leave the state.