School bus carrying special-needs kids rolls over near Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS - A school bus carrying severely disabled students home from a trip to the zoo rolled over Thursday on a highway near Indianapolis, injuring a dozen people, including five children, state police said.

A truck was changing lanes on Interstate 65 near Zionsville about 2 p.m. Thursday when it cut in front of the special-needs school bus, Sgt. Rich Myers of the Indiana State Police said.

The bus driver, Audrey Kitchel, 55, of Lafayette, veered left into the grass median to avoid the collision and lost control of the bus, which rolled over and came to rest on its wheels in the median, Myers said.

All 12 passengers, seven adults and five children ranging from kindergarteners to fourth-graders, were transported to Indianapolis hospitals where they were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, including neck and back pain, Myers said. All were wearing seat belts or other restraints.

None of the 12 was expected to be held overnight, hospital representatives said.

An inspection of the bus after the accident revealed no mechanical failures that would have contributed to this crash, Myers said.

Tippecanoe School Corp. Superintendent Scott Hanback said the bus was a Lafayette School Corp. bus carrying special-needs students from Mintonye Elementary School in southern Tippecanoe County. The students had gone to Indianapolis Zoo for a field trip.

"The bus was filled with students from the life-skills class," Hanback said, meaning they had severe and profound disabilities and multiple impairments-- physical as well as developmental. At least one was in a wheelchair, he said.

All five students were elementary age, from 4 to 10 years old, Hanback said. He also said most of the seven adults were parents.

The truck that caused the crash did not stop, Myers said. The truck was described as either a white box truck or a white semitrailer, he said. The vague description of the truck made locating it difficult, Myers said.

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