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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Local couple recounts Fla. bus crash

Friday, April 2, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- Imagine being on vacation more than 1,000 miles from home and having a serious vehicle accident.

Suddenly, the dream vacation has turned into a nightmare.

For Greencastle residents Betty and Tom Graffis, the scenario became reality on their Florida vacation in February.

"It was unreal," said Tom. "It was hard to realize we had an accident that far from home."

It happened on the first full day of the couple's tour with Exploritas, a travel program for senior citizens. The charter bus they were riding on with 27 other participants was struck by a 2010 Mercury Grand Marquis which failed to yield the right of way.

The bus overturned at least one-and-a-half times, landing on its roof and ejecting several of its passengers. Two people were killed in the crash. Betty was one of the passengers ejected from the bus.

"I woke up on the ground, covered in grass," she said. "My hand had been bitten by fire ants."

Her husband was still on the upside down bus. His gold watch had been ripped from his wrist and his body was in pain.

"We had no idea how the other was doing," Tom said.

Later, the couple learned they were not far from each other after the crash. While still at the scene, Betty finally heard Tom's voice and knew he was nearby, but not for long. They were sent to two separate hospitals.

"We communicated through the phone while in the separate hospitals," Tom said.

Tom suffered multiple body traumas and Betty sustained a broken right clavicle and left humerus, or the long bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. Both Tom and Betty were left severely bruised.

At home to receive the news about the accident was the Graffis' oldest daughter Debbie Kelly. Debbie received a phone call from a nurse in the emergency room at the hospital to which her father was taken and was then given the phone number for the hospital where her mother was being treated.

"I spent hours and hours making phone calls," she said.

The couple's youngest daughter Lynette Reed flew to Florida and acted as messenger between hospitals and family back home.

Betty was released from the hospital a day ahead of Tom, and seven days after the fatal bus crash, the couple flew back to Indiana with a paramedic.

"We arrived home on the day we planned," said Betty.

It just wasn't they way either of them imagined.

Their vehicle, which was left in Florida, was put on a truck and hauled to Indianapolis, where it was then delivered to their doorstep. Their luggage and belongings in the vehicle were sent FedEx.

A week before the bus accident, the couple had spent a week canoeing and other activities in the Sunshine State. In the weeks following the horrific crash, the couple has had to slow down.

Tom and Betty now take physical therapy and are recovering from their injuries in the comfort of their home. They rely on friends and family to get them places, since they can't drive.

"We are just glad to be alive," said Betty.

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Goodness, so glad you are okay but an awful thing to go through. God must have been looking out for you.

-- Posted by indianamama on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 2:50 PM

This must have been the crash on Hwy 27 in Sebring. We were in that traffic. What a tragic accident. Glad you both survived it, Many did not.

-- Posted by skittlebug on Fri, Apr 2, 2010, at 9:34 PM

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