Semi collides with West freshman basketball team bus; 2 adult fatalities

The Normal Community West High School freshman girls basketball team bus was hit head-on by a semi-truck traveling the wrong direction on I-74 resulting in two adult fatalities.

The crash occurred at 8:32 p.m. when a semi-truck traveling east on a westbound highway collided with the bus returning from a game in Champaign. The team bus carried eight players, Coach Steve Price, Mr. Charlie Crabtree, and the bus driver.

Charlie Crabtree, 72, a volunteer with the girls basketball team, passed away from injuries sustained in the accident. Crabtree was a retired bus driver who would keep the scorebooks for the away games. Crabtree was known for his commitment to Unit 5 athletics before he retired he was always known to driving extra routes taking sports teams to and from contests.

Freshman coach Mr. Steve Price; the West team bus driver; and the semi driver were all airlifted from the scene of the accident to Peoria.

The semi driver succumbed to his injuries from the crash.

The eight West players involved in the accident were brought to local hospitals, with Unit 5 announcing last night that the athletes faced no life-threatening injuries.

As of this early this afternoon, five out of the eight girls had already been released from the hospital.

Currently, there is no information regarding the update of the bus driver.

Mr. Steve Price, a PE and Drivers Ed teacher at West in addition to freshman girls basketball coach, was airlifted to St. Francis Hospital in Peoria and underwent surgery this morning. According to a State Police spokesperson and Unit 5 representation Price was conscious and talking at the time of his rescue from the damaged bus. 

Price was trapped in the bus for approximately an hour, forcing rescue personnel to use the jaws of life to free him from the bus.

Price is in stable condition and predicted to make a recovery despite sustaining several injuries in the accident.

“It’s a sad day today, but it is also a thankful day,” said Normal Community West Principal, Mr. Dave Johnson, “a crash of that magnitude could certainly have a much worse outcome” at a press conference held at West this morning.

“I would say from looking at the condition of that bus that we probably witnessed a miracle,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel said at the same press conference.

NCWHS will have additional staff available for the time being to help support the students and staff members affected by this event.

Despite the circumstances, the NCWHS girls varsity basketball team will play their game against Peoria Richwood tonight. The game will be at home at 7:30 p.m. and the school hopes to pack the gym in honor of Crabtree and support of Price and the bus driver. 

“The word community in our name,” Principal Johnson said, “because everyone comes together.”