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School bus in crash passed inspection, police say

INDIANAPOLIS – Initial investigations indicate there was nothing wrong with a school bus that crashed into a railroad bridge, killing the driver and a 5-year-old passenger, Indiana State Police said Tuesday.

The 18-year-old bus also passed a state police inspection on Jan. 3, Capt. David Bursten said.

State police inspect all school buses at least once a year, he said.

The bus was carrying 50 students to the Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School when it collided with a concrete pillar Monday morning. The impact tore apart the front end and scraped off part of the driver’s side of the bus.

A student, Donasty Smith, and 60-year-old bus driver Thomas Spencer II died; 10 students were injured. Two remain in the hospital in critical condition.

Although Indianapolis police are leading the crash probe, Bursten said state police are responsible for investigating the condition of any school bus involved in a fatal crash.

“There is nothing at this point that indicates there was anything with the bus that contributed to the crash,” Bursten said.

He said state police are still investigating whether Spencer had been licensed and certified to drive a school bus.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police have interviewed a handful of witnesses and collected measurements from the crash site, but more than anything await the results of the state police investigations and Spencer’s autopsy, Officer Anthony Schneider said.

Initial results from Spencer’s autopsy will be released Tuesday afternoon, the Marion County Coroner’s office said.

The driver of another school bus following the one that crashed told city police that it wasn’t speeding and didn’t swerve before the collision.

Donasty’s mother, Danyelle Smith, said she had two daughters on the bus. The older of the two, 7-year-old Erielle Norris, survived.

“Cherish your babies, because you never know what’s going to happen. One day they’re here, the next day they’re gone,” she said.