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January 1, 2014

Coroner: 1 killed when truck crashes into bus in northern Indiana

ROLLING PRAIRIE, Ind. —

 A pickup truck collided with a charter bus loaded with casino patrons Wednesday along a northern Indiana highway, killing the pickup's driver and injuring 15 bus passengers, authorities said.

A man driving the pickup lost control of his truck along snowy U.S. 20 and it slid into oncoming traffic and collided nearly head-on with a Royal Excursion charter bus carrying about 50 patrons of the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., police told WSBT-TV).

The truck's driver was killed and 15 bus passengers suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. The crash happened near the town of Rolling Prairie, some 15 miles west of South Bend.

LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said the truck's driver, who was from Griffith, was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force trauma.

Authorities said wintry weather appeared to have been a factor in the crash. Sullivan said the highway was snow-covered and slushy due to moderate snowfall in the region.

County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer told WSBT-TV the charter bus driver's fast thinking and steering skills prevented the crash from being much worse. He said the driver managed to steer the bus into a field after the impact and keep it upright.

"After impact with the pickup truck, he went through a shallow ditch between two fairly large trees and then I bet close to 500 feet into the field before he got it stopped, but he kept it upright," Mollenhauer said. "... If that thing would have went on its side, we would have had a lot more casualties. He's got to be commended for keeping it under control like that."

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