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Bluffton University bus crash: The victims

Jerome and Jean Niemeyer Columbus Grove, Ohio 

Ordinarily, Jean Niemeyer, 61, stayed home when her bus-driver husband took out-of-state trips to ferry Bluffton University athletes to their games.  

But after 23 years, she had recently stopped working at a fast-food restaurant. And the weather in Columbus Grove was bitterly cold.  

So she decided to join her husband, Jerome Niemeyer, 65, on a trip to sunny Florida for the Mennonite university's annual spring training trip.  

"Who would pass that up?" said her neighbor Patty Amstutz. "She couldn't wait to get there."  

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The Niemeyers had three grown children who lived elsewhere in Ohio. Less than a year ago, they became grandparents.  

Jerome Niemeyer had worked at a Philips plant but retired when it closed in 2006. He then took to driving. He was a substitute driver for local schools.  

After she quit her job at a nearby McDonald's, Jean Niemeyer helped look after an elderly neighbor, a woman in her 90s.  

"She told me she was really looking forward to this trip, " Amstutz said. "The last thing I remembered telling her was 'Go have a good time.'"  

 

Tyler Williams, sophomore Lima, Ohio 

 Before his high school baseball team took the field, Tyler Williams, 19, would crack up his nervous teammates by launching into impromptu raps about them and the game.  

That's how his friends and acquaintances remembered Williams --- an outgoing kid who was funny, and a little hyper.  

"I don't think I ever remember seeing him get down about anything, " said Eric Rose, who grew up with Williams .  

At Bluffton University, where Williams enrolled because his cousin was an alumnus, the sophomore was an outfielder.  

But at Lima High, Williams' coach played him at second base, third base, as an outfielder and a pitcher --- and he never complained.  

"He wasn't one of those people who'd sit there and pout about it if we lost a game, " Rose said. "He'd expect to go out and win the next day." 

  

A tour bus carrying an Ohio college baseball team to Florida crashed in Atlanta, killing five baseball team members, a bus driver and his wife, while injuring 28 others.

Cody Holp, freshman Arcanum, Ohio  

On his MySpace page, Cody Holp, 19, portrayed himself as "an athletic some a gun" who was "up for doing anything as long as it's crazy enough for me."  

But the music the 19-year-old picked as backdrop for his site's boasts of machismo was Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon."  

Those were the two sides to Holp --- a tough exterior that he projected to help with his athletic single-mindedness, and a sentimental interior.  

He proudly said he never read a book in his life. Then added he was a "poetry man."  

At Lewisburg Tri-County North High School, he played soccer and football. In his part-time job, he helped care for a quadriplegic.  

When he finished high school, Holp wasn't yet sure what he wanted to do with his life. But he knew what he loved, said Ben Sink, who knew Holp since the fourth grade.  

Holp's passions were: Baseball, soccer, basketball. Sink didn't know what followed next, but suspected it was another sport.  

Friday --- the day Holp died --- was the 10th anniversary of his grandmother's death. 

  

David Betts, sophomore Bryan, Ohio  

David Betts, 20, had big shoes to fill when he arrived at Bluffton. His great-grandfather was a former president. His sister, Sarah, still holds every major pitching record for the school's softball team.  

The two grew up competing against each other, often coming home bruised and bloodied after playing outdoors, his father said.  

He was part of a family enthusiastically involved in both church and athletics, said the Rev. Ronald Guengerich of Zion Mennonite in Archbold.  

Guengerich told The Associated Press that Betts' mother, Joy, grew up in Japan as the daughter of missionaries. David Betts embraced her international flair.  

"His was the only senior graduation party I ever went to that served sushi, " Guengerich said.  

 

Scott Harmon, freshman Lima, Ohio  

People are still talking about Scott Harmon's performance at his high school's Division II district semi-final baseball game last year. Harmon, 19, left the game in the first inning after a shoulder-to-nose collision at third base that left his nose broken. But he returned and --- despite being bloody and lightheaded --- hit a three-run homer to help his team, Elida High, beat Wapakoneta 6-5.  

"There are kids who'd have a problem with being elbowed, but not Scott, " said assistant baseball coach Randy Apple. "He took it as just part of the game. He'd just go on and play with no hard feelings."  

He wanted to be a math teacher. As part of a college immersion program to help students in their career path, Harmon returned to Elida twice a week to shadow Apple --- who also teaches math. He helped grade papers and tutor kids.  

Hannah Noel Endres, a student at Elida, said she last saw him on Thursday in the school hallway. "My last impression of Scott was his unforgettable smile and laugh, and I will never forget that."  

Atlanta, GA -- Flowers marked the site of the Bluffton University bus crash in Atlanta, as workers removed damaged posts and replace the fence at the scene of the bus accident on the Northside Drive overpass at I-75 south. March 4, 2007 photo. (Mikki K. Harris/ AJC staff) (Mikki K. Harris/AJC)

Zack Arend, freshman, Oakwood, Ohio

A relative of the fifth Bluffton University baseball player to die as a result of last week's fatal bus crash said the family feels robbed. 

Zachary Arend, 18, died Friday morning at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, bringing the death toll from the accident to seven.  

"He was a wonderful kid that never really caused anybody grief, " Maria Miller, his aunt, said by phone from Arend's Oakwood, Ohio, home. "This is not fair."  

Miller said the freshman pitcher and outfielder died of multiple injuries, mostly internal, to his head, lungs, and other organs. Doctors surgically removed his spleen and kept him sedated and on a ventilator, she said.  

"I think he started spiking a fever and got an infection, " Miller said. "His body couldn't fight it."  

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause as blunt-force trauma to the head and torso after an autopsy Friday, a routine procedure in traffic deaths.  

Miller described Arend as close to his parents, Dana and Caroline, and his three younger sisters. A sports management major, Arend was a good student who also participated in golf, basketball and cross country. He started playing baseball "as young as you can start, " she said.  

Bluffton University President James M. Harder broke the news of Arend's death to the school community Friday as family and friends prepared to say their goodbyes to David Betts, another team member killed in the wreck whose funeral was scheduled for Friday evening.

 

Staff writers Andrea Jones, Mike Morris, S.A. Reid and staff researcher Richard Hallman contributed to this report.

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