Police: Truck driver who ran red light caused crash


GREENFIELD — All but one of the 13 people hurt in a three-vehicle crash Friday afternoon involving a church van full of children has been released from the hospital, police say.

A front-seat passenger in a Pontiac sedan involved in the wreck — 69-year-old Joy Marks of Greenfield — was rushed to Indiana University Methodist Hospital on Friday with head and neck injuries. She remained in stable condition Monday, police reported.

Meanwhile, the investigation is ongoing, and officials are mulling whether the driver of a box truck they say ran a stop light, causing the wreck, will face charges stemming from the incident, police say.

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Eleven children from the Trinity Park United Methodist Church Alpha Omega day-care program were headed back to the Greenfield church after a trip to a Rushville swimming pool Friday around 3 p.m. when the accident occurred.

The box truck, driven by Clayton Farrell, 20, of Indianapolis, was northbound on State Street when he failed to stop for a red light at the intersection with Boyd Avenue. The truck struck the church van as it started to cross west toward the church, less than a mile away, and then hit the Pontiac, police said.

Church van driver Alycia Knox, 24, of Greenfield, was briefly knocked unconscious on impact, police said. She unknowingly hit the gas, causing the van to accelerate. The 12-passenger van, which Knox did not require a special license to drive, then struck a utility pole and overturned, police said.

The southbound sedan that was stopped at the intersection, ready to turn left onto Boyd, was hit by the truck as well, police said.

As 911 calls began to pour in, first-responders quickly determined more patients needed help than one department could handle. Early estimates of 11 or more injured signaled to the Greenfield Fire Territory to request backup while en route to the scene.

That request set into motion a critical-incident response operated by the 911 center’s computer-aided dispatch system. When first-responders on their way asked for more ambulances, dispatchers triggered the system to scan a list of available ambulances in and near the county with the click of a button. Each ambulance not already working another call was automatically sent to the scene.

All told, 10 ambulances carrying roughly 15 paramedics and 10 additional EMTs from across Hancock County rushed to the crash site to help. Ambulance crews from as far away as Fountaintown came to Greenfield to offer aid and help transport the victims to area hospitals.

Medics from the Greenfield Fire Territory took the lead at the scene. They strapped numbered bracelets to each child’s wrist, indicating the severity of their injuries, to ensure those most seriously hurt were taken to hospitals first, Fire Chief James Roberts said.

Such methods help first-responders prioritize their work at the scene, keep track of victims and make sure aid is administered quickly to those who need it most, he said.

Children with minor injuries were taken by ambulance together — in one case five at a time — around the corner to the hospital. Those with serious injuries were transported individually to assure they received one-on-one attention.

Conflicting statements from witnesses at the scene created confusion for officers immediately after the accident occurred Friday, Greenfield Police Chief Jeff Rasche said. After taking measurements at the scene and speaking with the injured drivers, a clearer picture of what happened emerged, he said.

Marks suffered the most serious injuries. She was still recovering at Methodist Hospital on Monday.

Knox was also taken to Methodist, where she was treated and released, police said.

All 11 children from the Trinity Park church group were hurt in the wreck, though none of the injuries were considered life-threatening, likely because everyone in the van was wearing a seatbelt, officials said.

By Saturday afternoon, each of the children had returned home to recover, church leaders said.

Eight of the children were taken to Hancock Regional Hospital — located just feet from where the crash occurred — and treated for relatively minor injuries. Three others were considered seriously injured and transported to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for more specialized care.

One child was flown to Riley by helicopter, and two were driven by ambulance, police said.

The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office now awaits crash reports and final details from investigators. It’s too early to know what, if any, charges the truck driver will face, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.

Farrell cooperated with officers at the scene, gave a statement to investigators and passed a field-sobriety test, Rasche said.

Neither of the other drivers was tested, and police do not believe drugs or alcohol played a factor in the wreck, he said. Everyone involved had an active driver’s license, Rasche said.

In the coming days, emergency personnel and law enforcement officers will come together for a routine meeting to assess their response to the accident and invite first-responders to weigh in on any ways to improve, Roberts said. It’s a process departments go through after any large-scale incident, he said.

Roberts said Friday’s incident should serve as a model for coordination among county departments.

“There is always chaos for a little while,” Roberts said. “But I think we were able to keep that chaos minimal.”