(3-2-22) 15 years later Bluffton University baseball coach remembers and mourns the players who lost their lives in a 2007 bus accident just outside of Atlanta. Below you read what took place that day…but is still remembered by many.

The Bluffton University bus crash was an automobile crash that occurred during the early morning hours of March 2, 2007, on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia . A chartered motor coach was carrying 33 members of the Bluffton University baseball team from Bluffton, Ohio, on their way to play Eastern Mennonite University during spring break in Sarasota, Florida. The group planned to travel without an overnight stop on the approximately 900-mile, 18-hour trip. The trip went without incident from Bluffton south to a motel in Adairsville, Georgia, at which time a relief driver began operating the bus for the second half of the trip.

You Tube Video Fox 5 – Mar 6, 2017

About 5:38 am EST, while operating the motor coach southbound in a left-hand HOV lane of I-75 in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the driver accidentally entered a left exit ramp, which ended abruptly at an elevated T-junction marked by a stop sign. When it reached the top of the ramp and the stop sign, the bus was traveling at highway speed. The driver lost control of the bus, which slid sideways into a concrete bridge wall and chain-link security fence, then fell 19 feet, landing on its left side across the interstate highway below. Twenty-nine passengers survived the crash, while seven occupants were killed.

It has been 15 years since that deadly bus accident in Atlanta killed 5 members of the Bluffton University baseball team. Dozens of others were hurt.

The five-student athletes who died were:

  • Zachary Arend (Oakwood, Ohio)
  • David Betts (Bryan, Ohio)
  • Scott Harmon (Elida, Ohio)
  • Cody Holp (Verona, Ohio)
  • Tyler Williams (Lima, Ohio).

The bus driver and his wife Jerome and Jean Niemeyer also died.

Twenty-eight others were injured including James Grandey, head coach. A charter bus was carrying the baseball team from Bluffton University in Ohio to a tournament in Florida. As they were passing through Atlanta, investigators says the driver mistakenly took the Northside Drive exit and couldn’t stop. The bus flew off the overpass and crashed onto I-75 below.

Atlanta Fire Captain Keith Schumacher was the first on the scene. He remembers seeing the 19 and 20 year old players trying to help their friends.

Capt. Schumacher

“The coach was critically injured, so we had to rely on the team captain to take charge and help us identify the bodies, for a 20-year old kid, that’s hard.”

Capt. Schumacher marks the day the same way he does every year.

“I go by the bridge every year on March 2 and take a photo then send it to the coach and to some family members, and every year, someone puts flowers on the bridge, and today there are flowers.”

Bluffton University President James Harder

“The experience of the 2007 baseball team became a collective journey for this campus community—and the account of that remarkable journey has become inseparable from the identity and history of this 117-year-old university.”

Dr. Harder quotes the words of Coach James Grandey, who spoke two weeks earlier during the 2007 team’s Feb. 18, 2017 induction into Bluffton’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“We must move forward in a way that shows others who are in need the love and support that was given to us in our darkest times… I know there is no getting over or getting past the accident. What there is, is moving forward, which is what all of you started doing by completing the 2007 season. While moving forward, we will always remember our friends and teammates that we lost and their families. We remember their time on our beautiful campus and the contributions they made while they were here.”

First game back–
On March 30, 2007 in front of about 2,000 fans, the team took to the field to begin a shortened season. The Beavers lost 10-5 against Mount St. Joseph but scored one run each in memory of Zachary, David,Scott, Cody and Tyler.

In a tweet today Coach Grandey still remembers –

Thanks to Atlanta Fox 5 for portions of this story….