First Day of Classes For Bluffton Students

Bluffton, OH - (AP) College students grieving a bus crash that
killed several players on their school's baseball team return to
class today.

Bluffton University also plans a memorial service on its
northwest Ohio campus tonight to honor the baseball players. The
school was on spring break last week.

The baseball team's bus plowed off an overpass March Second in
Atlanta and crashed onto Interstate 75 below, killing four Bluffton
players, the bus driver and the driver's wife. A fifth player died
Friday. The team's coach and a few players remain hospitalized in

The crash happened as the team traveled to Florida for its
annual spring training trip.

Bluffton University campus community members and members of the media gathered Monday morning to hear President James M. Harder reflect on his trip to Atlanta, Ga., this past weekend, where he met with student-athletes and coaches involved in the March 2 bus accident and their families. Monday is the first day back at school since the fatal bus crash.

In addition, Dr. Harder discussed where the university is headed and the "Caring Community" process the institution is working to implement in the coming days, weeks and months.

"We are a small university with a large and caring heart," said Dr. Harder, "and we have been overwhelmed with support from the large hearts of others, including the residents of Georgia, emergency response teams, the Red Cross, churches, hospitals and their staffs, the AirTran and Delta airlines and various civic groups."

Four of the six still in the hospital as of Tuesday morning morning were players - Kyle King, Zach Arend, Will Grandlinard and Mike Ramthun; one was the head coach - James Grandey; and one was a student-coach - Tim Berta. Rathum was released from the hospital Tuesday evening. So as of Wednesday morning, there are four students (three players and one student-coach) and the head coach still hospitalized. Two remain in critical condition.

In the coming days, discussions will occur to move those hospitalized closer to their loved ones in Ohio. "Generous offers by people willing to help bring our boys back home continue to come in," said Dr. Harder.

This week, Dr. Harder, along with many members of the Bluffton campus community will attend visitation hours and funeral services, which began yesterday, for the four student-athletes and bus driver and his wife who lost their lives in the accident.

A memorial service for the student-athletes who lost their lives will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 12, in Founders Hall. More details regarding the service will be released as they are made available. Complete information will made available at The memorial service is open to the public.

Bluffton University is currently working on a "Caring Community" process which will provide support for students returning to campus on Monday, March 12, and more specialized support for the student-athletes and their families who were directly involved with the accident. Jacqui Slinger, director of learning services, is the team and family care coordinator. She will continue to work with the student-athletes directly involved in the accident and their families to make sure that their needs are met. Dr. Sally Weaver Sommer, interim dean and vice president of academic affairs, will serve as campus care coordinator, working to ensure counselors are available for students, faculty and staff as needed.

Currently, the university administration is holding conversations with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regarding the future of the baseball team's 2007 season. President Harder is adamant that the Beavers team will again take the field though he is uncertain of the exact timeframe.

A fund has been established by Citizens National Bank for the baseball team student-athletes involved in the accident and their families. Contributions can be made by check payable to Bluffton University and mailed to Citizens National Bank, 102 S. Main Street, Bluffton, Ohio 45817. Please note "Baseball Team" in the check's memo line. Credit card contributions can be made by calling 419-358-3324 during the university's business hours.

"Bluffton will move forward from this tragedy, never forgetting," said Dr. Harder. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone. Many individuals are now forever connected to Bluffton through their assistance, thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continued support."