The Columbus Cottonmouths were only minutes away from reaching their destination, the Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., when the bus carrying the team rolled over, but all 24 people aboard the charter have escaped the accident without life-threatening injuries.
The crash occurred Thursday afternoon as the Cottonmouths’ bus was travelling into Peoria via Interstate 74, and, according to the Peoria Journal-Star, it appears speed was the cause of the crash. Illinois State Police trooper Ross Green told the Journal-Star that the driver of the bus, Allen W. Dawlford, was “cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.”
As a result of the crash, the bus everyone aboard the bus was taken to hospital, including two people who were trapped following the crash. In order to remove the two people who were trapped, firefighters on the scene had to cut holes in the top of the bus. The Journal-Star reported that only Dawlford and Cottonmouths goaltender Brandon Jaeger sustained injuries that did not allow them to be treated and released shortly thereafter.
Jaeger, 26, is the starting goaltender for the Cottonmouths, and according to the Journal-Star’s Dave Eminian, the netminder has suffered a broken leg. Meanwhile, Dawlford reportedly required surgery for his injuries.
Initially after the crash, the league had not announced any postponement for the weekend set between the Cottonmouths and Rivermen, but it was later determined that the game set to take place Friday would be played at another date. Despite many of the players being released from hospital without serious injury, it appears many of the players are nursing ailments that will likely keep them out of action for a few days.
"There are players on crutches, players with broken hands, injured tendons, ligaments,” Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers told Eminian. “It looked as if they might only have 8-10 players who would be OK to play.”
Despite the Friday postponement, the Cottonmouths could be planning to suit up on Saturday. Rogers told Eminian that Columbus coach Jerome Bechard was “confident” he could bring in players for Saturday’s game.
Speaking with the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Dana Barker, Bechard couldn’t say enough about the support the Cottonmouths received following the accident from everyone from first responders to the Rivermen.
“The Rivermen, (owner) Bart (Rogers) and (head coach) Jean-Guy (Trudel) asked what we needed, clothes, transportation,” Bechard told Barker. “They’re bringing us a meal at the hotel right now because we don’t have any of our belongings, no money, no phones, nothing. They’ve been really great. As far as the support from Peoria, I can’t say enough.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.