CLOSE TO HOME: Four Remain in Hospital; Loved Ones Say Goodbye to Victims of Bus Crash

David Betts
David Betts
Scott Harmon
Scott Harmon
Tyler Williams
Tyler Williams
Cody Holp
Cody Holp
Jerome and Jean Niemeyer
Jerome and Jean Niemeyer

ELIDA -- Five days after a tragic bus crash in Atlanta, Georgia, some of the victims are being laid to rest. Family and friends of Scott Harmon and those of Jerome and Jean Niemeyer gathered to remember them.

Scott was eulogized on Wednesday at the Elida High School gym, where about 2,000 mourners gathered. Bruised and bandaged, college baseball players stood in a circle and hugged. His teammates wiped away tears in a row near the front.

Scott was remembered for his passion for sports and as a prankster with a sweet, funny smile.

"The world's been cheated because they really didn't have a chance. They don't know what they're going to miss," said Hal Graham, Scott's uncle.

"He was just a great kid," said Russ Graham, Scott's grandfather. "There was no bravado about him. He did his job the best he could do."

A funeral service for Tyler Williams will be held at 1 PM Thursday at the Phillipian Missionary Baptist Church in Lima.

Visitation for David Betts of Bryan will be Wednesday from 4-8 PM and Thursday from 2-8 PM at Krill Funeral Home. He will be laid to rest on Friday.

Services for Cody Holp will be held 1 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at the Lewisburg United Methodist Church with Rev. Michael Pratt officiating. Interment Arlington Cemetery. Friends may call 4-9 p.m. Wednesday at the church.

Tim Berta, Ida, Michigan, and Zach Arend, Oakwood, Ohio, are still listed in critical condition at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. William Grandlinard is in fair condition at Grady Hospital.

Head Coach James Grandey is in the ICU at Piedmont Hospital where he is listed in serious condition.

The Bluffton University baseball team' charter bus fell off an off-ramp and onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta. The bus carrying the team crashed around 5:30 Friday morning. The students had been on their way to Sarasota, Fla., to play in a double header with Eastern Mennonite University before heading to Ft. Myers to participate in the Gene Cusic Classic.

Police spokesman Joe Cobb says the driver apparently mistook the exit lane for part of the carpool lane and continued over the side of the overpass. The bus tumbled over a fence and guard rail, and landed on its left side. Eyewitnesses on the scene say there were no skid marks.

The bus landed on a pickup being driven by a Maryland man. Danny Lloyd says it looked like a big slab of concrete falling down. He closed his eyes and stepped on the gas. His truck was damaged, but he wasn't hurt.

Bluffton University is just south and west of Findlay, or about 50 miles south and west of Toledo. News 11's Colleen Wells was there this morning and said the scene at Bluffton University was very emotional. There are only about 1,100 students enrolled at the university. Wells says it's the kind of school where everybody knows everybody. She's seen students in tears.

"It's going to rock the school for awhile," said Bluffton junior Katie Barrington. Some students and residents wiped tears from their eyes as they filed into the school's basketball gym for a 10 am gathering.

University President James Harder spoke to reporters just after 11:00am on Friday. "Today is a profoundly tragic and sad day in the life of Bluffton University," Harder began. "We only wish to reflect on our sadness for the tragedies that have so deeply impacted the lives of so many people. Friends, relatives, of course the people involved directly in the accident, we can only begin to imagine how over time this will play out."

"A few minutes ago, in this auditorium, a gathering together of the Bluffton community occurred. Every seat was filled, as our students, faculty and staff, friends, community members, alumni, area pastors, area counselors and well-wishers gathered together to reflect on what has happened," said Harder.

"All of us on this campus will have the opportunity in the days and weeks ahead to offer our own support in many, many different ways, and I'm sure that support is forthcoming," said Harder.

Numerous offers from other institutions and families have poured into the university offering counseling services, places to stay, food and many other tangible and intangible forms of support.

A police spokesman described the bus as being "completely annihilated." Sports equipment was scattered along the interstate. Several people were able to crawl out of the escape hatches before rescuers got there.

A.J. Ramthun said he was jolted awake when the bus hit the overpass wall. He says he then remembers a teammate tapping him on the head and telling him to get out because there was "gas all over."

Ramthun has stitches in his face and says his collarbone is broken. However, he says his brother -- a teammate -- is worse off. Ramthun says his brother damaged his hip after being trapped underneath the bus and "might not recover from that."

Traffic on I-75 was backed up for miles by the wreck.

The Bluffton University web page says the Bluffton Beavers play their homes games at Sears Field in Bluffton.  Bluffton's team finished 17-21 in 2006, with a record of 10-11 in the Heartland Conference, tying them for second place in their NCAA Division 3 conference. The school was founded in 1899.

The team played its first game in 1905. Its all-time record is 622-807-24.

According to the school's web page, the The 16th Annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic is an event that offers Men's and Women's NCAA and NAIA Baseball and Softball teams an opportunity to participate in regular season games during their respective "Spring Breaks." Over 300 teams come from most of the "cold winter climate" states and represent NCAA Divisions II and III.

Classes at Bluffton were canceled for the day and student organizations planning to head out on spring break trips canceled their plans in order for students to be with each other and their families during this time of grieving. Trained counselors, local area pastors and community members have been available throughout the day for students.

On the Web:
Bluffton University: www.bluffton.edu
Bluffton University Sports: www.blufftonbeavers.com

Posted by KO