Friday, November 30, 2007

DU Alums Not Injured In Hockey Bus Crash

From: The Star-Gazette
by Jeff Murray

(left) The crash caused extensive damage to the front of the motor coach. The bus driver, Kenneth Nance is being treated at Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa.

It could have been a lot worse.

That's how several members of the Elmira Jackals hockey team feel after their bus rammed the back of a tractor-trailer on a Pennsylvania interstate early Thursday. DU Hockey Alums Luke Fulghum (lower left) and Kevin Ulanski play for the Jackals and are listed on the team roster. Ulanski was not injured in the accident and Fulghum did not travel on the bus because he had a previous injury.

The accident took place amid darkness about 4:30 a.m. in Harborcreek, Pa., near Exit 37 on Interstate 90. The team was on its way back home from a two-game Ohio trip that began with a win in Dayton on Tuesday night and concluded with a Wednesday night loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones.

As most of the players slept, the bus slammed into a tractor-trailer, caromed down an embankment and stopped upright in a field, said Pennsylvania State Trooper James Quirk. Harborcreek Fire Chief Richard Chiappazzi, who was on the scene, told WSEE-TV in Erie, Pa., that the truck was loaded with drywall.

Chiappazzi said that the bus's momentum carried it about 300 feet off the road. The bus driver, 56-year-old Kenneth Nance of Blossburg, was seriously injured and had to be extricated from the wreckage. Chiappazzi said rescue workers needed almost an hour and 45 minutes to remove Nance from the bus. Other than the driver, the players and staff escaped without serious injury.

But it was a harrowing few minutes until people could figure out what was going on, said defenseman Chris Busby, who said he came through the accident OK.

"I was sleeping. That's when I woke up and got slammed against the wall. We were all in individual bunks," Busby said. "We swerved off the road and went into a ditch. We were tumbling around and didn't know what was going on. People were screaming.

"Once things calmed down, we sorted things out and saw how serious it was," he said. "I woke up, and right away, I knew something bad was happening. It was the scariest moment of my life."

Nance was taken by helicopter to Hamot Medical Center in Erie with serious lower body injuries. A hospital spokeswoman said Nance was in serious condition in the intensive care unit, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Nance was employed by JGM Coach Co. of Wellsboro, said Jackals General Manager Robbie Nichols of First Arena in Elmira, who was not on the bus.

A replacement bus carrying team members arrived at the arena shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday. As players filed off the bus, it was hard to tell most of them had been in a harrowing accident, except for goaltender Dan LaCosta. He was on crutches, and Nichols described him as the most seriously injured player.

Several other players will have to be evaluated to see how well they came through the crash, he said.

"(Defenseman) Dan Boeser has a bad knee. I couple of them have sore necks," said Nichols, a former player and coach himself. "Obviously, we've got injuries. As a player and a coach, in 20 years of riding buses, one of my biggest fears was a bus accident. I always sit up front."

One positive break the Jackals got is their schedule. They don't play again until Wednesday, Nichols said.

The Jackals, in their eighth season of existence and first in the ECHL, will put a team on the ice on Wednesday, but they aren't sure yet who will be able to suit up, said Coach Steve Martinson.

Martinson called Nichols at home from his cell phone shortly after the accident.

Other than feeling a little sore, Martinson escaped injury, even though equipment manager Jim Carey landed on top of him when the bus careened off the road.

"I was sleeping when it happened. It was confusing because it was so dark," Martinson said. "I was trying to find my shoes. We were calling the police. Nobody knew where we were. We were up front trying to push out the front of the bus where the driver was pinned. "

Team Vice President of Communications Grady Whittenburg said the accident was scary, but it wasn't as serious for the team as it could have been.

"The first concern was to make sure everyone was OK. Everyone was checking on each other," Whittenburg said. "Our first concern was for the driver.

"If you travel on a bus long enough, it's in the back of your mind. You hope you never go through it, and if it does happen, you hope it never happens again. At least we were in a field. We were pretty fortunate."

1 comment:

du78 said...

Jimbo is reporting over on USCHO in the All Things Denver thread that Ulanski is ok and Fulghum wasn't on the bus as he didn't make the trip due to an injury.