Driver, child dead after bus crashes into east side bridge

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A school bus driver and a child were killed Monday morning after the bus crashed into a bridge on the east side.

Bus 43 from the Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School crashed into a bridge in the 900 block of S. Emerson Avenue at approximately 7:40 a.m.

Police said the bus crashed into the beam that supports the train track on the bridge.

The driver, 60-year-old Thomas Spencer, and a female student, 5-year-old Donasty Smith, were pronounced dead. Fox59 was told the young girl was sitting in the front of the school bus.

Several students were transported to Riley at IU Health and Wishard Hospital.  Two male students at Riley at IU Health are listed in critical condition.  A Wishard Hospital representative said eight patients were treated for non-life threatening injuries and later released.

Fox59 was told approximately 50 people were on the bus and the students riding the bus range in ages of 5 to 16-years-old.  The Indianapolis Fire Department said four people were extricated from the bus.

Police said there were two witnesses: a driver heading northbound on Emerson Avenue and another school bus heading southbound.

One witness claims students on the bus were arguing and bus driver was distracted.  Police are investing the claim and the cause of the crash. No other cars were involved in the accident.

Some students were taken to the school, where many worried parents waited for more information. Mayor Greg Ballard visited the school to offer support.

The school was located two miles away from the accident.

Students at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School will be released at noon.  The school is asking parents to contact the school directly for information regarding students on the bus.  The school’s number is (317) 351-1534.

It is unclear whether or not the students were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

Last fall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required all newly manufactured small school buses to be sold with lap and shoulder seat belts. In October 2009, the NHTSA mandated that manufacturers of new large school buses fit them with higher, padded seat backs.

Roads in the area were closed for several hours as crews cleared the wreckage. They reopened at 12:30 p.m.

A prayer service is being held at the crash scene for those injured and killed in the crash.  It will begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Principals Kelli Marshall and Ryan Gall released the following statement Monday afternoon:

“Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School is deeply saddened by the injuries and loss of life that occurred this morning during a tragic school bus accident.
As the safety of our students is the primary concern at Lighthouse, this tragedy has hit our school hard.  We share the pain felt by so many and grieve with the families of the students and bus drivers involved.”
Indianapolis Lighthouse released students for the day but will resume classes Tuesday on the normal schedule with grief counselors on hand to help students, families and staff through this difficult time.

Indianapolis Lighthouse sincerely appreciates the outpouring of support and offers of assistance from the community as we work through the painful loss that has occurred within our school family.”

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