Indiana Church Bus Crash Kills 3 | Church Bus Safety Checklist

A 40-passenger church bus transporting a busload of teens and children home from church camp crashed in Indianapolis on Saturday. Three adults were killed and more than two dozen youth injured.

The bus and group are from Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Indianapolis, and were returning from a church camp in Michigan. They were just one to two miles from arriving home when the crash occurred.

The bus was traveling on an interstate highway, went onto an exit ramp at what witnesses described as a “high rate of speed,” and tipped over onto its side, sliding into a lane barrier. The driver told police the bus’s brakes failed to operate.

Those killed in the crash were the church’s youth pastor and his wife, Chad and Courtney Phelps, and a volunteer and mother of five, Tonya Weindorf. Ms. Phelps was pregnant and due to give birth in about a month. A second bus from the same church carrying a group of younger children home from the same camp arrived safely.

It seems that almost every year brings a tragedy involving a church bus full of youth. For example:

• In February 2011, a church bus of the Light of Love Mission Church in Pasadena collided with an SUV, killing the driver and injuring 23 people.

• In July 2009, a bus was carrying a youth group from First Baptist Church of Shreveport, LA, to Georgia. Near MeridianA, MS, a rear tire on the bus blew out, and the bus flipped over three times. One teen-age boy was killed and 27 others injured.

• One of the deadliest bus disasters in U.S. history happened in May 1988 in Carrollton, KY. The youth group of the Assembly of God in Radcliff, KY, was traveling to an amusement park north of Cincinnati. A drunk driver was driving a pickup truck in the wrong direction on an interstate highway when it collided head-on with the church bus. The gas tank ignited immediately, and the fire blocked the bus’s front door. Twenty-seven people were killed and 34 injured.

CHURCH BUS SAFETY CHECKLIST

The suffering experienced by the families and churches involved in these church bus crashes is immeasurable. Sometimes tragedy is unavoidable. However, it is absolutely essential for churches and other organizations transporting busloads full of people to take every possible precaution to protect the lives of the adults, teenagers and children entrusted to their care. Here is short checklist of things for churches and other organizations to consider.

1.  Is the vehicle in good condition? Has it passed a recent safety inspection?

2.  Does it meet all legal safety requirements, such as laws governing safety belts, emergency exits, trailers in tow, etc.?

3.  Does the bus trip conform to legal and common-sense guidelines regarding maximum number of passengers and maximum weight of cargo?

4.  Is the driver qualified, both legally and according to common sense, to operate the vehicle?

5.  Is there sufficient supervision on the bus to ensure safe conditions prevail?

6.  Does the church carry sufficient insurance to cover such accidents? Are the vehicle, drivers and passengers covered under the stipulations of the policy?

7.  Does the church have a written policy to ensure that these safety considerations are being communicated and followed? Has the policy been reviewed by an attorney?