Don Wagler, the 65-year-old Hartville resident behind the wheel of the charter bus involved in a fatal chain-reaction crash on Interstate 70, is facing a challenging road to recovery, according to his family. The accident occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 14, resulting in the loss of six lives, including three Tusky Valley students and three chaperones.
Wagler, who sustained multiple injuries in the crash, has undergone several surgeries and remains hospitalized. Valerie Wichert, Wagler’s daughter, shared updates on her father’s condition, expressing both gratitude for his survival and the challenges he faces in the healing process.
“He is doing okay; today has been a little harder on him,” Wichert stated. “He had his third surgery, and he is worn out.”
Among Wagler’s injuries are multiple breaks in his left leg. Due to the severity of the wounds, doctors had difficulty closing them, leading to the necessity of skin grafts.
“They did skin grafts today to cover the rest of his wound on his leg,” Wichert explained. “He will have a long recovery, but we are so thankful that he is here with us.”
Despite the harrowing circumstances, Wichert remains optimistic about her father’s eventual return home, expressing hope that he will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.
Wichert recalled the moment her family learned of the accident.
“We had seen there was a bus accident, and my mom sent a screenshot in our family group chat just saying ‘Don, I hope you’re okay & this isn’t you’,” Wichert recounted. “A few minutes later, she got the call that it was my dad.”
Even in the face of severe injuries, Wagler’s first instinct was to help evacuate the Tusky Valley band members from the bus.
“His first reaction was to open the door to start getting people off the bus, even though he couldn’t walk,” Wichert said. “Thankfully, some people stopped to help and got him and the others off the bus.”
As the community mourns the lives lost in the tragic accident, Wagler’s family remains focused on his recovery and the hope of his return home in the coming weeks.