A Lancaster County church bus crash off Interstate 81 that occurred in Pennsylvania on Sunday has left 24 injured and six in critical condition. The bus had high school students and volunteers en route to a church ministry retreat at Lake Champion hosted by Lives Changed by Christ church of Lancaster County and led by senior pastor David Ashcraft.
Pennsylvania State Trooper David Beohm said no fatalities have been reported from the accident.
“The bus went off the exit ramp off of Interstate 81,” Beohm told CNN. “At the end of the ramp you either turn left or right on Route 25, and the bus went across the center guide rail and straight across.”
The Lancaster County church bus accident occurred in Schuylkill County, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, was on the way to the high school students’ church retreat at Lake Champion.
A Pennsylvania State Police reconstruction team visited the site to determine the cause of the accident. A police report outlines known information about what happened.
The crash occurred at approximately 2:37 PM on Sunday, Sept. 19, according to State Police.
“Approximately thirty occupants of the bus sustained varying degrees of injuries and were transported to local area hospitals,” the Pennsylvania State Police report on the Lancaster County church bus accident continued. “Assistance was provided at the scene by local fire and ems agencies [sic].”
“The crash occurred as Unit 1 was traveling Southbound on Interstate 81 in the area of mile marker 111.7, Frailey Township, Schuylkill County,” the report reads. “Operator 1 lost control of the Unit for unknown reason and traveled off the roadway. Unit 1 exited its lane of travel and exited the roadway off the right shoulder. At this time, Unit 1 traveled through the gore area and the exit ramp area. Unit 1 continued travel across PA Route 25 striking a center guide rail. After traveling across PA Route 25, Unit 1 struck am embankment and traveled approximately fifty yards into a wooded area and came to final rest.”
The LCBC bus was en route to a church ministry retreat led by senior paster David Ashcraft. The bus contained high school students and chaperones, including volunteers as well as high school freshmen and sophomore girls.
Thirty two were taken to local hospitals, and six were reported to be in critical condition from the crash. All sustained “varying degrees of injuries”, and injured parties were reportedly transported to local hospitals around the Frailey Township area.
One firefighter was also treated for minor injuries, NBC News reported.
“At this time we transported 32 to the local hospitals. Several went by helicopter, mostly by ground EMS to several hospitals throughout the county,” Tremont Fire Chief Brian Eisenacher told Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania’s WBRE.
Chief Eisenacher said over 20 EMS units responded to the crash. Chief Eisenacher said first responders set up a landing zone at Schuylkill County Airport and established a triage center on the side of the road for those who were injured by the accident.
“We had to pretty much work off the ladders alongside the bus to get the patients out,” Chief Eisenacher told Eyewitness News of what happened. “Everyone pretty much was inside the bus still when we got here…”
“Incidents like this take a lot of manpower to get people out of the bus and then down into ambulances that are waiting down here,” Eisenacher continued, praising Lancaster County first responders. “It takes a pile of people to get something like this accomplished.”
All injured parties were reportedly transported to local hospitals within an hour of the crash. As of Sunday evening, about two-thirds were apparently discharged, Pennsylvania’s TribLive reported in an update on the accident. The 37-year-old driver was said to be seriously injured.
Photos from the scene show the church bus lodged in a thicket of trees.
The charter bus was a 2017 Van Hool bus rented by LCBC. The bus and limo company that provided the rental promised to soon release a statement.
“Please join us in praying for those involved in the accident, their families and friends, our staff and our entire LCBC family,” the church hosting the ministry retreat said.
This is a developing story.