A bus transporting more than 30 high school girls and volunteers affiliated with the multi-campus Lives Changed By Christ megachurch in Pennsylvania crashed Sunday, leaving several in critical condition.
State police told PA Homepage that at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the bus driver lost control of the vehicle in the southbound lanes of I-81 near mile marker 111.7 and drove off the roadway. It then went downhill and across State Route 25 where it crashed through the center guard rail before hitting an embankment and coming to a stop in a wooded area.
“We had to pretty much work off the ladders alongside the bus to get the patients out. Everyone pretty much was inside the bus still when we got here, and we had mostly everybody transported probably within the hour,” Tremont Fire Chief Brian Eisenacher told the news outlet.
In a series of statements released since Sunday, Senior Pastor David Ashcraft said the group of 31 girls and volunteers were returning to the Manheim campus after attending the LCBC HSM Fall Retreat. Two other buses that were traveling from the event got to the campus safely.
“All 31 of the freshman and sophomore girls and their leaders on the bus sustained various levels of injury and all but one were transported to five local hospitals for care. Four were taken by Life Flight to either Hershey Medical Center or the Geisinger Hospital in Danville,” Ashcraft said Sunday.
In an update Monday evening, the megachurch’s senior pastor said 18 members of the group had been released from the various hospitals while 13 were still receiving treatment.
“The remaining 13 passengers are still receiving treatment at this time. Our Strategic Leadership Team along with our campus pastors are personally connecting with families in-person at the hospitals and will be in regular contact to provide care and support in the coming weeks. We ask for your continued prayers for recovery for everyone involved and for the medical staff that are providing care,” Ashcraft said.
“We’re also supporting the LCBC Manheim students, families and the volunteer leaders that participated in the student retreat by inviting them to a private event to care for and pray over those who are directly affected by the accident,” he added.
The Pennsylvania State Police accident reconstruction and forensics unit used a drone to track the path of the bus, according to PA Homepage, which said the vehicle was a motorcoach owned and operated by Premier No. 1 Limousine Service in Middletown.
“Incidents like this take a lot of manpower to get people out of the bus and then down into ambulances that are waiting down here. It takes a pile of people to get something like this accomplished,” Eisanacher explained.
Founded in 1986, LCBC is a nondenominational evangelical congregation considered one of the largest in the United States, with 14 campuses in central Pennsylvania. In 2019, the church reported collective weekly attendance across some 13 campuses to be 17,000.