BLUFFTON — The date of March 2 will be remembered at Bluffton University.
A crowd of about 150 people, including Bluffton University students, faculty and staff, former and current baseball players, and family members gathered for a memorial service at the Circle of Remembrance to recognize the 10th anniversary of the 2007 baseball team’s fatal bus accident in Atlanta.
Five players on the team’s charter bus were killed when the bus fell from an overpass on the way to spring training in Florida. Five student-athletes were killed, including Zachary Arend of Oakwood, David Betts of Bryan, Scott Harmon of Elida, Cody Holp of Verona and Tyler Williams of Lima, along with the bus driver and his wife, Jerome and Jean Niemeyer. Twenty-eight others were injured including the team’s current head coach James Grandey.
“This is a special day in the Bluffton University community,” said Bluffton university President James Harder. “It was this day 10 years ago that we lost five student athletes, as well as the bus driver and his wife, and there are many others as well that are living with difficult memories.”
The memorial was built in honor of the 2007 team and in memory of the five student-athletes who died following the accident. In the center of the Circle of Remembrance is a pedestal with the sculpture “Touching Home” created by Gregg Luginbuhl. The Circle of Remembrance was dedicated March 12, 2008.
The entire 2007 team was recently inducted in the Bluffton University Athletics Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility due to the team’s courage and strength in responding to the accident, including completing the 2007 baseball season.
“At the end of the induction ceremony, I noticed that the 2007 team had traveled a road that no one would want,” Harder said, “but they traveled it as well as anyone that could. After the initial tragedy, that team took the field in memory of those lost and injured players.”
Campus pastor Tig Intagliata said the community has kept the memory of those lost alive while also moving forward.
“Our God never grows tired of walking with us,” Intagliata said. “Our God is a God of hope, that lifts us up when we need him. At that banquet two weeks ago, I witnessed God’s presence and his healing power.”
Senior pitcher Austin Every said the way the community came together was a large part of what attracted him to the university.
“My final year here, I feel very fortunate to play every home game and every practice at this field in memory of that team,” Every said. “I was only 11 years old when I heard about the accident on ESPN and I didn’t really understand. On my first visit here, I realized how Bluffton has changed lives. The 2007 team taught us courage. There are lessons we’ll carry throughout life. Although they were broken, they remained whole.”
This year’s team will wear black jerseys with a special patch in memory of the 10th anniversary of the incident.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.