Columbus Cottonmouths bus involved in accident sending entire team to hospital

The Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League team bus was involved in a rollover accident on its way to Peoria Thursday afternoon -- leaving more than half of the Snakes’ roster unable to play in Saturday’s game.

Andy Kravetz reported all 24 players were sent to the hostpital and that 2 of them had to be extricated from the bus (Morton Fire Chief Joe Kelley said his firefighters had to cut out holes in the top).

Twenty-three of the bus's occupants were taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Three were considered trauma patients and listed in serious condition, though media relations coordinator Shelli Dankoff described their injuries as not life threatening. The remaining 20 patients were not seriously injured. Five already had been treated and released shortly after 3 p.m., though they remained at the hospital with their teammates. Goalie Brandon Jaeger and the bus driver, Allen W. Dawlford, 74, of Smith Station, Ala., were admitted. All other players and staff were treated and released. An additional patient was transported to UnityPoint Health-Methodist. He has been treated and released.

SPHL president Jim Combs said one of the two Columbus goaltenders suffered a broken leg, but he was unsure which player was hurt. He said another member of the traveling party is believed to have suffered a broken collarbone, and that Dawlford reportedly had a gash on his head and was in surgery.

"The rest of it, everyone walked away, mostly bumps and bruises," Combs said.

The Friday night game was postponed.

Kravetz concluded, "Ross Green, an Illinois State Police trooper, said it appeared the bus was going too fast shortly after 1 p.m., when it tried to negotiate the Interstate 74 westbound on-ramp from Interstate 155. The bus slid off the road and rolled over. Skid marks were clearly visible in the muddy cornfield next to the highway. As of 2:30 p.m., the bus still was lying on its side in the field, a large trailer, presumably with the team's equipment, behind it."

A Saturday night game was played against the Peoria Rivermen...and Donald Olivieri nailed the spectacular emotional game winner.

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