Church identifies victims killed in Indianapolis bus crash

Church members comfort each other.

A youth pastor and his wife, along with another church member, were killed in Saturday's bus crash on the north side of Indianapolis.

Jeff Leffew with Colonial Hills Baptist Church told reporters Sunday morning that Chad Phelps, his wife Courtney, and Tonya Weindorf died in the crash, which occurred on Keystone Ave. as the bus exited the off-ramp from I-465 a little after 4:15 pm.

The Phelpses, who were in their mid-twenties, were expecting their second child next month. Their two-year-old son survived the crash.

Chad Phelps is the son of the church's senior pastor, Chuck Phelps. Tonya Weindorf is a longtime member of the church and is survived by five children.

Leffew said Weindorf was on the bus because her special needs son wanted to attend the camp.

"She wanted to go and make it a good week," he said. "According to her husband, it was a great week. That's who Tonya was."

"All these folks are special to us as members here, as friends. Our church grieves now," said Leffew. "They're with God in heaven. We know that without a doubt, but we grieve the fact they're not here with us. We miss them. We ask for your prayer and support. We ask for your respect for the families that have lost loved ones."

Six teenagers who were on the bus remain hospitalized at IU Health hospitals - one who was previously listed in critical condition at Methodist has been moved out of the intensive care unit (ICU) and is now in good condition.

Two others at Methodist, and three teens at Riley, are listed in good condition Monday morning.

One teenager was released from Wishard Hospital Sunday, along with another from Riley. Another patient remains at St. Vincent.

Members of the Colonial Hills Baptist Church Youth Group were riding on two buses returning from a Michigan summer camp when one of the buses crashed.

Thirty-seven people were on the bus when it crashed, most of them teenagers. Five of the passengers had to be extricated from the bus. Injuries ranged from critical to serious.

They were less than two miles from the church when the crash occurred. The bus driver said the bus brakes failed as he exited I-465 onto southbound Keystone Avenue.

Leffew told reporters Sunday that a church member was driving the bus. He also said the church owns the bus.

Twenty-six people went to area hospitals for treatment. Their ages ranged from a toddler to teenagers. The toddler was among those treated and released. 

In all, 26 units were dispatched from the Indianapolis Fire Department, and numerous agencies responded to the scene at Keystone Ave. near 96th St. The crash closed Keystone for several hours. The bus has been moved to another location for inspection.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the Indianapolis Metro Police and Indianapolis Fire Departments.

In Indiana, church buses are exempt from the rigorous examinations required of school buses. A church is required to have buses inspected every year, by a mechanic of their choosing.