Winamac residents hold their children tighter as they remember teen who died in bus crash

Owen Abbott // Photo provided by family

People in the small town of Winamac came together Wednesday night to remember 13-year-old Owen Abbott, who lost his life Wednesday in a tragic school bus crash on U.S. 31.

Several churches opened their doors to the community, including Winamac Nazarene Church, all of them providing a place for people to pray and grieve.

In this small town of little over 2,000, when tragedy strikes, they turn to prayer.

“We realized it was going to affect a lot of people,” said Tanner Griffin, Winamac Nazarene Church Pastor.

Pastor Tanner Griffin decided to open his doors to the community after seeing the effect the tragedy was having.

“We wanted to create a space where people can get together and do the thing that it [the community] does well,” said Griffin.

Many including the pastor are left wondering why one of their young residents died tragically on a school bus this morning on U.S. 31.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Michelle Parks, grandmother of kids that go to school.

Residents like grandmother Michelle Parks are still in a state of shock.

She was an instructional aide at the Eastern Pulaski Schools and had the teenager in class when he was younger.

“I just remember he would be in the classroom and was just one of the kindest kids that I never mad and he’s just always smiling,” said Parks.

Mother of five Vickie Kaczmarek says she never expected anything like this.

Her children are all grown now but always took the bus to and from school.

"They all took the bus,” said Vickie Kaczmarek, Winamac resident. “None of them drove here on their own; they got picked up on the highway even. You never think of this.”

Many parents are holding their children a little closer and praying for the two parents who can't.

"the parent isn’t supposed to outlive their kids,” said Kaczmarek. “It’s hard.”

The Eastern Pulaski school district had grief counselors on hand today and they'll be there tomorrow as well for students and teachers.

In a statement Wednesday night, the school system said in part,

We ask the community to come together to pray for the families, our students and our staff during this difficult time.

Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter posted to his Facebook page that he is so proud to see the cooperation of police and school counselors following the tragic bus crash:

The students hurt in the bus crash were taken to Plymouth Medical Center, where 22 of them were treated and released.

The rest of the students on the bus were taken to the hospital to have a safe spot to be picked up by family members.

Officers say the scene was chaotic as they were trying to make sure students were connected with their parents after the crash.

“Me as a parent, I immediately think of the parents,” said Sgt. Ted Bohner, Indiana State Police. “Obviously this gets reported quickly, social media even faster. My heart goes out to the parents, that were wondering. Especially to the injured, and the eighth grader that lost his life. That’s just heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.”

14-year-old Zane Bell was taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend with non-life threatening injuries.

The coroner says Abbott was pronounced dead at the scene, and his official cause of death is blunt force trauma to the head.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family. You can see that here.

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