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Five killed in Wis. bus crash
Updated: 2005-10-17 20:48

A beloved high school band director was among five people killed when a busload of students and chaperones returning from a marching band competition crashed into an overturned tractor-trailer.

Douglas Greenhalgh, 48, his wife Therese, 51, and their 11-year-old granddaughter, Morgan Greenhalgh, were killed, along with bus driver Paul Rasmus, 78. Brandon Atherton, a 24-year-old student teacher, also was killed.

"We always had fun in his classroom," said Tania Richter, 17, referring to Greenhalgh, the band director at Chippewa Falls High School. "We're going to truly miss him."

Twenty-nine others were injured, some seriously, troopers said.

The accident happened early Sunday when the bus crashed into a tractor-trailer that had rolled over and jackknifed on Interstate 94, blocking both westbound lanes about five miles northwest of Osseo, said Capt. Douglas Notbohm of the Wisconsin State Patrol.

"I don't know how much opportunity there was for braking action," Notbohm said. "I don't believe there was much time for the bus driver to react to a total, dynamic lane closure in front of him."

All of the windows on the bus were knocked out in the crash.

Chippewa Falls school superintendent Mike Schoch said the team had stayed Friday night in Whitewater. He said it was common to return late Saturday from such a trip so everyone could be home on Sunday.

"It's a terrific tragedy and loss to our school and community," he said.

The school's principal, Jim Sauter, said classes would be held Monday, but the school's crisis intervention team would also be available. "In my career, I have never encountered a tragedy of this degree," he said.

At least 400 students and parents met at the school of about 1,500 students Sunday to get information on the accident. Counselors and clergy were available "to address their spiritual needs," Schoch said.

Richter's stepfather David Bhend said members of the music program under Greenhalgh had taken many trips over the years, including to New York and New Orleans.

The injured were taken to at least four different hospitals with injuries ranging from serious to non-life threatening, Notbohm said.

Four students and three adults remained hospitalized with most in stable condition, Schoch said. They suffered injuries such as broken hips, arms and legs and punctured lungs. Many underwent surgery, but all are expected to recover, he said. Other students with minor injuries were treated and sent home.

Schoch said the bus was the first of four carrying about 200 students and 40 adult teachers and chaperones. Notbohm said the bus involved in the crash had a capacity of 53 but he did not know how many were actually on the vehicle.

The tractor-trailer driver, who was employed by Whole Foods Market Group of Munster, Ind., was en route from Indiana to the Twin Cities, Notbohm said. He said the driver was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

It was not known what caused the truck to go off the road, but the driver told investigators at the scene that he had not fallen asleep, Notbohm said.

"We haven't ruled out anything as it relates to the driver's situation," he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be involved in the investigation, Notbohm said, and will look at the records of both drivers, their logs and at both vehicles.

Notbohm said the bus was returning from a band competition hosted by the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, about 200 miles southeast of Chippewa Falls. The band had placed third in Class AAAA competition in the Wisconsin School Music Association State Marching Band Championships.

Terry Tauger said his 16-year-old daughter was in one of three buses not involved in the crash. It's been a day of "lots and tears, lots of disbelief, a lot of hugging and relief that most of their friends were OK," he said.

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