Cottonmouths release statement on crash, new details from Illinois

The Columbus Cottonmouths bus crashed in Illinois Thursday afternoon while on the way to Peoria for weekend games.
The Columbus Cottonmouths bus crashed in Illinois Thursday afternoon while on the way to Peoria for weekend games. Courtesy of the Peoria Journal Star

MORTON, Ill.— A charter bus carrying the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey team crashed Thursday afternoon on an interchange ramp between I-74 and I-55, about 20 miles from Peoria, Ill.

They were scheduled to play the Rivermen this weekend.

Owner Wanda Amos was reached by phone just after 3 p.m. in Washington, D.C., and said she had talked to coach and general manager and coach Jerome Bechard. He told her all of the players were alive and had been transported to the hospital for evaluation. One player had to be extracted from the rear of the bus and suffered a possible fracture.

There were two serious injuries according to a spokesman for the Illinois State Police. Six ambulances and a school bus responded to take the injured to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center, in Peoria, the spokesman said. At 3:45 p.m., state police were still working the scene.

The Cottonmouths traveling party of 24 included Bechard, staff and players.

“They took all my team to the hospital,” Amos said. “They're banged up but most have already been released from the hospital. They've been taken to their hotel by the Peoria organization, which is also feeding them dinner.

I can't say enough about the Peoria owners, coaches, staff and fans. They have been wonderful to our players and staff. My phone has been blowing up with good wishes from all over the league. All we can do now is pray."

She said the Rivermen owner and head coach were on the way to the hospital.

Reporter Andy Kravetz with the Peoria Journal Star tweeted at 3:48 p.m.: “Illinois State Police spokesman said it appears the bus was traveling too fast and it slid off the on ramp.”

Just after 3:30 p.m., the Columbus Cottonmouths released a statement regarding the crash.

“The Columbus Cottonmouths are working diligently to ensure the safety of their players and staff and that all involved are being treated promptly...The Cottonmouths are waiting for reports to confrim the cause of the accident and cannot confirm if either game in Peoria, Ill. will still be played this weekend.

Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers told the Journal Star that Bechard told him the injuries seem to be just “bumps and bruises.”

“Players and the coach are on their way to the hospital to be checked...Our organization is dispatching vehicles now to the hospital to pick up players from the Columbus team and get them transported to their hotel,” Rogers said.

Dave Eminian and Andy Kravetz of the Journal Star contributed to this story. Stay with us as provide updates.


Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams