OTTAWA — A bus carrying the La Salle-Peru Township High School freshman girls basketball team crashed on Interstate 80 Saturday morning on the way to a tournament in Morris.
The bus driver and three unidentified girls were transported to St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Ottawa following the accident at 9:43 a.m. near rural Ottawa.
The bus driver - retired Peru police officer, Dominic “Nick” Andreoni, 62 - was admitted to OSF St. Elizabeth Hospital in Ottawa and kept there for observation for an irregular heartbeat, according to La Salle County deputy Max Ambler.
“He said he must have blacked out because he doesn’t remember crossing the ditch and going into the field,” Ambler said.
As a matter of procedure in motor vehicle accidents involving a driver in possession of a commercial driver’s license, Andreoni was ticketed for improper lane usage and then was required to allow drug and alcohol tests. Ambler said tests revealed no alcohol or drugs in the bus driver’s system.
Three girls were taken to the hospital as a “precautionary measure,” according to Ambler, and all were treated and released by 12:20 p.m. Saturday, according to L-P superintendent Steve Wrobleski.
“(We were) fortunate that there were no serious injuries,” Wrobleski said.
Ambler said the bus received damage to the front bumper, grille and headlights and had a small dent in the roof.
For unknown reason the eastbound bus left the interstate, left the right side of Interstate 80, traveled into and up out of a ditch, ran over a thin, 12-foot-tall pine tree, went through a fence and went 700 feet into a harvested bean field before coming to rest.
The remaining 12 student athletes were examined on the scene and released to their parents. The game they were heading to was canceled. Two coaches also were on the bus.
On a taped message distributed to L-P followers, Wrobleski concluded: “LPHS officials have been in contact with the bus company and parents of the student-athletes. … While numerous staff members have been involved in the situation this morning, I want to specifically commend the actions and sound decision-making of coach Jason Miller and coach Gerry Studzinski for the manner in which they responded as soon as the accident occurred. If there is any more information to share, I will be in contact with the LPHS family.”
State and Ottawa police assisted at the scene and with traffic control. Marseilles, Ottawa and Sheridan ambulances and paramedics responded.