I-74 crash: 'A great loss for our school'

I-74 crash: 'A great loss for our school'

CHAMPAIGN — Going forward, they'll pray.

After a bus carrying the Normal West High School freshman girls' basketball team they'd just played hours earlier was involved in a horrific crash that left two people dead Wednesday night, a handful of Champaign Central Maroons players discussed praying for their opponents and for their own safety before they travel for games.

"Every player I've talked to is in disbelief," Central coach Levell Mables said Thursday. "A couple of them mentioned getting together and having positive conversations and praying for their own safety."

Many questions about what led to Wednesday night's crash remained unanswered Thursday, when the Maroons took the court for a game against crosstown rival Centennial and the Normal West community mourned Charles Crabtree, the 72-year-old school volunteer and bus passenger of Normal who died in the head-on collision.

Also killed: the driver of the semi-truck that police say was headed in the wrong direction on Interstate 74 when it collided with the bus carrying Normal West's eight players, Mr. Crabtree, 47 year-old coach Steve Price of Bloomington, and the team driver.

The Peoria County coroner's office identified the driver of the semi as 34 year-old Ryan Hute of Delmar, Iowa, but authorities did not offer any explanation Thursday for why he was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes when the collision occurred at mile marker 137, near Downs.

The conditions of the 10 surviving members of the Normal West traveling party varied:

— The driver of the team bus, identified Friday morning as 64 year-old Mark Kuhn of Heyworth, remained in critical but stable condition at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, officials said.

— The coach, one of three adults airlifted from the crash scene, was "on the road to recovery," Unit 5 officials said. Price suffered broken bones and will require surgery.

— All eight players were treated for injuries and released without being admitted — four from OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, four from Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal.

Late Thursday afternoon, Normal West thanked community members and well-wishers for their support during a "difficult time."

"We are so sad to see the passing of a great Wildcat volunteer, Charlie Crabtree," the district wrote in a Facebook post. "Charlie had a special way of connecting to every student he met. This is a great loss for our school.

"All students have been released from the hospital and are recovering from the accident. Although Coach Price has many broken bones, he is on the path to recovery as well.

"Please continue to send positive thoughts."

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