Colonial Hills marks 1 year after fatal crash

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis church commemorated an emotional anniversary Saturday even as parents happily reunited with children returning from an annual retreat.

Many of those same parents were at Colonial Hills Baptist Church a year ago, waiting for a bus that would crash just miles from its destination.

"It was emotional as we approached the exit," said church member Jeff Leffew. "It was a year ago tomorrow that the kids were coming home and the accident occurred, so it was emotional."

Last year, on July 27th, the church's youth bus was heading back from the retreat when it crashed five miles from the church. Investigators said the bus driver lost control as he was exiting I-465.

Three people died in the crash: Youth Pastor Chad Phelps; his pregnant wife Courtney Phelps; and Tonya Weindorf, a wife and mother of five.

Thirty six children survived the crash. Most of them went back to camp this summer, church leaders said. Among them was Michael Smith.

"I mean, you never forget the memory, but it may not stab you quite as hard," Smith said. "But, it's still painful."

Investigators said the bus didn't slow down enough to make the turn. No charges were ultimately filed in the crash.

Since the accident, church leaders say it's been a year of growth and unity.

"You appreciate life a little bit more," Leffew said. "You certainly appreciate our faith a little bit more, and you just recognize how precious each day is."

The Colonial Hills youth group is still fundraising to replace the bus. So far, they've raised about $15,000 for the cause.

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