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Indianapolis church bus crash blamed on speed

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, November 15, 2013 - 5:44 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Investigators are blaming this summer's Indianapolis church bus crash that killed three people on the vehicle traveling too fast for an interstate exit ramp and didn't find any brake troubles as the driver had described.

The Marion County prosecutor's office is reviewing the police investigation into the July 27 crash and hasn't decided whether to charge the driver, spokeswoman Peg McLeish said Friday.

The completed Indianapolis police report said state police inspectors found no mechanical problems with the bus owned by Colonial Hills Baptist Church. The driver told police following the crash that the bus' brakes suddenly failed before it crashed into a concrete median wall and flipped onto its right side just off an Interstate 465 exit on the city's north side.

The bus was returning from a youth camping trip at Camp CoBeAc, near Prudenville, Mich. The crash killed church youth pastor Chad Phelps, 25; his pregnant wife, Courtney Phelps, 23; and 51-year-old Tonya Weindorf, who attended the camp with her special-needs child. About 30 others were injured.

The crash happened about 4:15 p.m. on a clear, sunny day about a mile from the church.

"As the bus entered the intersection, it was traveling too fast to safely negotiate the turn from the ramp," the police report said. "... Tire marks at the crash scene indicated that the driver of the bus did brake and steer prior to impact but was unable to avoid contact with the barrier wall."

The bus was driven by a 68-year-old church member who hasn't been cited or charged. He suffered back injuries, according to police.

McLeish said the prosecutor's office didn't have a timeline for deciding whether to pursue charges.

"We have an ongoing investigation," she said. "There's the crash report, there's also a reconstruction report and other evidence that's being reviewed by our office."

Colonial Hills Deacon Jeff Leffew said in a statement that the driver was a beloved church member who is still recovering from his injuries.

"We are thankful for so many individuals, churches and organizations that have prayed for all the families involved in this incident and have shown countless acts of kindness and generosity toward our church family," Leffew said.