The innocence of a middle school field trip was shattered when a flatbed truck rammed into a school bus in Marshall County, Indiana.
The bus was taking students from Winamac Community Middle School to see a production of “Elf The Musical” on Wednesday morning when the truck hit its rear, police say, according to WNDU. The crash happened outside of the town of Argos around 9 a.m.
Owen Abbott — a 13-year-old eighth-grader — died on the scene after the collision, said Marshall County Coroner John Grolich, according to The Associated Press. Police say the truck hit the back of the school bus, where Owen was sitting, after it had stopped at railroad tracks and started to drive ahead.
Michelle Parks, who used to teach Owen at Eastern Pulaski Schools, told WSBT what made the boy so special.
“I just remember he would be in the classroom,” she said, “and was just one of the kindest kids ... and he’s just always smiling.”
Another 14-year-old student, Zane Bell, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to a nearby hospital, The Pilot News reported. There were 38 students and three chaperones on the school bus during the deadly crash, as reported by Fox59.
Parents were told to pick up their children from a hospital in Plymouth, where 22 of them were also treated for injuries, WSBT reported.
“As a parent, it breaks your heart,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Ted Bohner told Fox59.
Police identified the driver of the truck as 26-year-old Tylor Perry, WNDU reported, and the driver of the school bus as 54-year-old Cheryl Warner, who they say followed the law by stopping at the railroad crossing. Both are taking part in a toxicology test.
No charges have yet been filed as the investigation continues, The Associated Press reported. A police report denies that weather caused the crash, according to WNDU.
Owen died from “multiple blunt-force trauma,” according to The Pilot. A GoFundMe page has been created to cover funeral expenses.
Parks, whose grandchildren attend the same school as Owen, called the boy’s death “just heartbreaking,” according to WSBT.
Tanner Griffin, pastor of Winamac Nazarene Church, emphasized that it will take some time for the reeling community of Winamac to heal, ABC57 reported.
“This is going to have rippling effects throughout the community,” Griffin said, according to ABC57. “It’s not just a few families that are going to be working through this, it’s going to be a whole community that’s going to need support and encouragement.”
It was a scary wake-up call for Vickie Kaczmarek, who said all five of her children used to take the bus when they were younger.
“None of them drove here on their own; they got picked up on the highway even,” she told WSBT. “You never think of this.”