Editor’s note: This story contains photos of the crash provided by attorneys. Some readers may find some of the images disturbing.
LITTLE ITALY — Parents of 16 St. Ignatius College Prep JV hockey players injured in a crash this month in Indiana are suing the truck driver who hit the players’ bus in a suspected drunken driving crash.
The lawsuit was filed in Kosciusko County, Indiana, where the Nov. 12 crash occurred.
The lawsuit alleges Victor Santos, 58, had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit when he was driving his truck along a highway in Warsaw, Indiana. Before the crash, police were warned a semi-truck driver was swerving and speeding on a highway, local police Captain Brad Kellar said.
Santos ran a red light, crashing into a bus carrying 23 student-athletes, according to the lawsuit. The force of the crash flipped the school bus onto its side, police said at the time.
All 23 players and their two coaches were sent to a local hospital, police said. Three students were initially in critical condition.
The team was heading to its hotel from a hockey tournament in Culver, Indiana when the crash occurred, parents said at a news conference Tuesday. Many parents were at a restaurant about 15 minutes away when they received a call from one of the boys about the crash, they said.
“The phone calls started to come in and people were standing up screaming, ‘the bus rolled over the bus rolled over,'” parent Wendy Cook said. “We all just ran to the car…we tried to figure out if these boys are alive.”
Wendy Cook’s son, Alex Cook, suffered two fractured bones in his face and a concussion, and was having a seizure when rescuers pulled him from the bus, she said.
At the hospital, Alex Cook kept asking for his friend, Jack Rogers, his mother said. Jack Rogers had injuries to his pelvis, a skull fracture and several broken ribs, said Jeff Rogers, his father and head varsity coach.
The two friends were lying in the road together after being rescued from the bus, Wendy Cook said. Alex Cook described hearing Jack Rogers screaming, his mother said.
Jack Rogers is using a wheelchair and crutches, and faces a long road to recovery, Jeff Rogers said.
One student remains in the hospital, according to a news release from the Cavanagh Law Group, which is representing the parents and students behind the lawsuit. Many of the injured students are back at school but several have not been well enough to return, Jeff Rogers said.
Police charged Santos with four counts of causing serious bodily harm while operating a vehicle and 22 counts of criminal recklessness. His bond was set for $75,000, according to police.
The lawsuit names Santos and trucking companies N&V Trucking Express, B&W Cartage Company, Inc., B&W Cartage, Inc. and B&W Cartage International, Inc. as defendants.
Representatives from N&V Trucking Express declined to comment. Attempts to reach parent company B&W Interstate were unsuccessful.
Santos was previously charged in Indiana with failure to comply with federal motor carrier safety regulations and failure to register under the unified carrier registration system, attorneys said.
“He never should have been on the road, much less hired to be behind the wheel of a semi-tractor trailer,” attorney Timothy Cavanagh said in a statement. “Santos and the trucking companies must be held responsible for the egregious conduct that has left these young men with lifelong physical and emotional injuries.”
Family members and attorneys plan to attend a Jan. 9 court hearing in Indiana to show support for the prosecutor assigned to the criminal case. Attorneys at Cavanagh Law Group say they’ve been told that Santos is attempting to reduce his bond and should have more information in the coming days.
Parents at Tuesday’s press conference said they want to see Santos behind bars “for a very long time.”
“I would never want to see that man out of jail or would I ever want to see him behind the wheel of any vehicle,” mother Eileen Murphy said.
Parents have been trying to let the boys spend as much time together as possible to process their emotions resulting from the accident, they said Tuesday.
The team recently held a practice where about nine of the players participated, parents said. Those who could not skate still gathered for a sense of normalcy over pizza and conversation, parents said.
“One of the hardest things for me was seeing boys, who are these tough boys, hug each other and tell each other they love each other for days after the accident … all they wanted to do was be together,” Wendy Cook said.
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