Bluffton students return to a mourning campus

BLUFFTON, Ohio – Still reeling from a bus wreck that killed five college baseball players, students returning from spring break somberly shuffled to classes yesterday.

“Usually everyone’s upbeat,” Bluffton University freshman Robert Simmons said. “It’s been grim today.”

Purple ribbons tied to trees and light posts were a constant reminder of the crash in Atlanta that killed the five Bluffton players along with the bus driver and his wife.

Flowers, cards and letters, some written in crayon, filled the center of the student union. “You’re my favorite baseball team,” wrote one girl. “May God Bless You,” said another.

Letters of condolence came from athletes and administrators at Georgia Tech University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Arizona and dozens of other schools.

Visitors lingered and looked at photos of the five players and their teammates.

“In some ways, they’ve touched everybody’s lives,” said Dawn Ledyard, an education professor.

The most difficult part of the day for Simmons was seeing members of the team who survived. “You don’t know what to say,” he said.

A.J. Ramthun, a freshman player whose left arm was in a sling, said it was a relief to be back at school.

“I’m surrounded by the greatest people I’ve ever known,” he said.

He and his brother Mike, a sophomore who suffered leg injuries in the crash and is using a motorized scooter to get around campus, said they were amazed by the support they’ve received from their friends and even people they don’t know.

The Mennonite-affiliated school with about 1,200 students planned an evening memorial service for the players and their families. Among those expected to attend were Gov. Ted Strickland and emergency workers from Atlanta.

The team’s bus plunged off an overpass March 2 onto Interstate 75. Four players died at the scene and another died on Friday, a week after the accident.

Investigators have said the driver apparently mistook an exit ramp for a highway lane, continued along it without stopping at a “T” intersection at the top of the ramp and then went over the edge.

Most of the players were sleeping either on the floor or in their seats. Those who were killed and seriously injured were sitting near the front.

Those killed were the bus driver and his wife, Jerome and Jean Niemeyer, and players Scott Harmon, Tyler Williams, Cody Holp, David Betts and Zach Arend.

Two team members and the head coach remain in Atlanta


Sophomore Kyle King, who broke vertebrae, went home yesterday morning. His parents said he was in good spirits and feeling well.