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ONE YEAR LATER: Players, families impacted in Normal West bus crash reflect on year of healing

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Normal West Bus Crash, 12/5/2018
Normal West Bus Crash, 12/5/2018

Normal, Il (HOI) - Thursday marks one year since a Normal Community West High School bus was hit head on by a semi, killing two people. On that night, December 5th, 2018, the semi was driving the wrong way down the interstate.

Normal West bus crash, Dec. 5th 2018

Though the cuts and bruises have healed for the JV girl's basketball team, the fear they felt that night hasn't left their memory.

"At that moment, I saw myself flying around. I was horrified.. I was scared," said Jorianna Bischoff, a basketball player riding the bus home that night.

Jorianna was sitting with her teammate Kirsten Lellelid that night, they say they looked up and saw the headlights just seconds before impact.

"I just remember sitting there in the aisle I swore I was dead and that I wasn't going to make this out alive and that this was dream," said Lellelid.

All the players walked away with minor injuries. Lellelid was diagnosed with a concussion, while Bischoff left with cuts on her thigh and lip that required stitches.

Glass surgically removed from Jorianna Bischoff's knee six months after the bus crash.

Six months after the accident, Jorianna had pieces of glass surgically removed from her knee.

"I think about the accident like a lot. Sometimes I relive that moment," said Bischoff.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it. We have a new outlook on life. We might not know why this happened but maybe we'll find perspective soon," said Lellelid.

The bus driver, Mark Kuhn, and basketball coach, Steve Price, left the scene with serious injuries.

However, this past year has been a different kind of healing for the family of Charlie Crabtree. The 72-year-old died next to the team he had dedicated so many hours to as a volunteer.

Kathy Crabtree (Charlie's wife) Nikki Segobiano (daughter)

"Well it hasn't been easy to be quite honest."

"I started a grief group called Widows and Wine and I told the girls spell it W-I-N-E or W-H-I-N-E I don't care were just going to get together for fellowship," said Charlie's wife, Kathy Crabtree.

Kathy says even strangers who talk about Charlie's impact with Normal West help her healing.

"Parents loved when he drove because they felt safe on the bus that Charlie drove, I mean the boy would just go the speed limit… bring them treats, decorate the bus when they made it to state," said Kathy.

Kathy Crabtree showing pictures of her late husbands life.

After Charlie's long career with Country Financial, Kathy jokes about how his passion for Normal West began.

"Every good man, there's a good woman behind him… and this good woman nagged him to death so he wanted to get out of the house to volunteer that's my story and I'm sticking to it! So anyway, he loved the students, he loved driving the bus," said Kathy.

Charlie Crabtree

Charlie wasn't driving that night, rather sitting in the first row during that drive home on a winning night.

"For the girls, I feel in my heart they are true heroes. They have gone through so much. They have lived through something so horrific and tragic. They have shown grit and determination and maturity beyond their years," said Kathy.

Normal Community West JV girls basketball team, 2018

The driver of the semi also died that night, 34-year-old Ryan Hute of Iowa.

At the girl's basketball game Thursday, the anniversary of the accident, Normal West is holding a moment of cheer for Charlie.

If you're interested in the grief counseling, you can contact the

ARC Activity & Recreation Center in Normal

Advocate Hospice Bereavement -- The group meets on the 1st & 3rd Wed. of each month from 12:30 - 2:00 PM.

600 E. Willow St., Normal, IL 61761


Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC

Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC

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