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1 dead as car, St. Francis football bus collide

No one from college hurt in I-80/94 wreck

– Solomon Grimes, who coaches defensive backs for the University of Saint Francis’ football team, looked up from his phone and saw the concern on assistant coach Cody Williamson’s face.

The Cougars were traveling home Saturday night from their 37-28 victory over Saint Francis (Ill.) in Joliet on Interstates 80/94 in Hammond, and a car was coming at the team’s bus.

“He started to kind of yell because he saw the car swerving,” Grimes said. “It swerved and I see the car pull right in front of us. We hit it. From there it was bad to worse.”

Joshua Walberg, 21, of Hammond, died after the accident, in which one of two buses that Saint Francis players, coaches and trainers were traveling in was hit by a car. Grimes said the accident happened between 8:55 p.m. and 8:57 p.m.

No one on the bus was injured.

Walberg was arguing with his girlfriend, 21-year-old Shawnna Popenhagen, when he grabbed the steering wheel of the car she was driving and triggered the accident, authorities told the Associated Press.

Grimes said after forcing the bus door open, he, Williamson, assistant offensive line coach Pat Mahorney and offensive assistant coach Grant Veith ran to the car to try to help. Inside receivers coach Donlaray Reese remained on the bus with about 35 players.

“It was pretty hard to look at,” Grimes said. “The young man in the passenger seat was bleeding pretty bad. He was coughing. He was moving, but I think it was more of his body reacting to it.

“She was kind of in shock. She was kind of delirious, she was going wild. We tried to calm her down, calm everyone down and help as best we could.”

Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley said he was not on the bus that was in the accident, but his son, Saint Francis co-offensive coordinator Patrick Donley, called to find out what had happened when the driver in the lead bus noticed the second bus was no longer behind them.

“Our coaches that were on the bus said it was a crazy thing,” Donley said.

Popenhagen was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., with what police described as “incapacitating injuries.” The hospital isn’t releasing information on her condition. She was wearing a seat belt, but Walberg wasn’t.

Donley said the bus he was traveling in with other coaches and players pulled into an oasis in LaPorte to unload. The bus then went to the scene of the accident to bring those passengers back to the oasis.

A second bus was called to take the rest of the team home. Saint Francis coaches, players and trainers arrived back in Fort Wayne about 2:30 a.m., Donley said. The team was originally expected to return home from the game around midnight.

“I was very encouraged last night on my way home about how we responded to a tragedy like that,” Grimes said. “Unity is the most important thing, and we had a lot of that. A lot of people working together.

“We had a coach stay back with the players to make sure they were safe, and we had four coaches sprinting to the accident instead of running away from the accident. It was handled in the best way it could possibly be handled on our end, the professionalism, the courtesy, the courage, and it was obviously a very unfortunate situation, a very sad situation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

tkrausz@jg.net

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