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Two killed in Normal West bus crash

A semitrailer truck traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 74 collided with a school bus carrying members of the Normal Community West High School junior varsity girls basketball team on their way back from a game on Dec. 5.

The crash, which occurred about 2 miles east of the Main Street/U.S. 51 exit on Bloomington's south side, killed Charlie Crabtree, 72, a Normal West volunteer, and the semi driver, Ryan Hute, 34, of Delmar, Iowa.

Coach Steve Price and Mark Kuhn, who drove the bus, were airlifted to a Peoria hospital, By the next day, they were in stable condition, but both remain in the hospital.

Eight players were treated for minor injuries. It isn’t known why Hute was traveling in the wrong direction. Police continue to investigate the accident. 

PEORIA — The truck driver who collided with a McLean County Unit 5 school bus Dec. 5 on Interstate 74 near Bloomington had only caffeine in his system, Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said Wednesday.

“In other words, the toxicology testing was negative,” he said.

Ryan Hute, 34, of Delmar, Iowa, died in the crash, suffering multiple blunt force injuries, Harwood said. It is not known whether Hute was wearing a seat belt or why he was traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate.

“Based on the facts of the investigation, his manner of death was ruled accidental,” said Harwood.

The crash also killed Charlie Crabtree, 72, a volunteer with the Normal Community West High School freshman girls basketball team. The players and coaches were returning from a game in Champaign.

Seriously injured in the crash were bus driver Mark Kuhn and assistant coach Steve Price, both of whom are home after weeks of recovering at a Peoria hospital.

Kuhn suffered a collapsed lung and broken ribs, leg, arm and vertebra. Price suffered broken bones and other injuries. He has undergone several surgeries already.

Illinois State Police said Hute was driving the semi that was traveling the wrong way near mile marker 137 on I-74, about two miles east of the Main Street exit on Bloomington's south side.

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Hute was employed by Jason Farrell Trucking in Clinton, Iowa. The owner of the trucking firm could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Hute left behind a wife and three young sons.

Earlier this month, Crabtree's wife, Kathleen, filed a lawsuit against Farrell's trucking firm, seeking more than $50,000. The lawsuit, filed in McLean County Circuit Court, accuses Hute of several negligent acts, including failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision and failure to realize he was driving the wrong way on the interstate.

Her lawyer, James Ginzkey, said the news that Hute had no drugs in his system does not change anything.

"We are actually gratified to hear that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system because it would be very scary to find out that someone who was driving something of that size was on the interstate under the influence of something," he said.

"It doesn't change the fact that there were a pattern of things that went wrong, including driving in the wrong direction and he didn't slow down to avoid the accident."


Gallery: Normal West bus crash on Interstate 74

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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