John Thompson III spent Monday afternoon as any basketball coach with a road game a couple hours up the highway from his home might spend it: His head buried in his computer, watching video of his next opponent. Thompson sat in the second row of the Georgetown team’s bus en route to Philadelphia, for a matchup Tuesday night with Villanova. His team filled and staff filled the rows behind him.
And then, chaos.
“It was a harrowing experience,” Thompson said Tuesday afternoon by phone. “It was very, very, very scary.”
Somehow, the Georgetown bus collided with a Lexus SUV that was driving ahead of it along Interstate 95 in Howard County. By Thompson’s memory – which is admittedly hazy – he looked up from his computer right before impact. What he saw almost seemed fake.
“I don’t know what happened,” Thompson said. “There’s bodies flying everywhere. I saw the car go rolling to the side. It rolled at least four or five times. You’re sitting there holding on. I thought we were going to hit another car. … It seemed like something out of an action movie, just a car rolling down the highway.”
To be clear: There were no major injuries. But as the Hoyas collected themselves, they had no way of knowing that. The Hoyas also had no idea that a 49-year-old woman and her 17-year-old son were riding in the SUV.
“Literally, guys were all over the place,” Thompson said. “Guys were on the floor. Guys were everywhere. Once we figured out that everyone with us is OK – you’re bumped, you’re bruised, you might have a cut, but you’re OK – we got out, and we went over there.”
Given the drama they had just seen, any outcome was possible as Thompson and members of the team approached the SUV, which was laying on its side well off the road.
“Once I got there, you see the boy, you see the son, he was clearly rattled – understandably,” Thompson said. “And so the guys kind of pulled him out of a back window.”
According to the Maryland State Police, an ambulance from a private company came upon the scene and began to help. The police and rescue personnel from Howard County also responded.
“It felt like they were there in a minute, two minutes,” Thompson said.
The passengers in the car were Kimberle Strassner, 49, and her 17-year-old son Thomas, both of Baltimore, according to a police spokesperson. Thomas Strassner was not wearing shoes, and when he was pulled from the car, one of the Hoya players provided his. Cpl. Jordan Snedeker of the state police said when he arrived at the scene, both passengers were out of the car. They were transported to Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, but were not admitted, according to a hospital spokesperson.
“I can honestly say that as bad as it was, God was there, because no one seriously injured to my knowledge,” Thompson said.
Snedeker said the investigation is ongoing, and that police hope to view video footage from the bus. Georgetown contracts with a local company, D.C. Trails, to provide transportation to road games within driving distance.
Thompson and his team, meantime, continued north to Philadelphia. They held a shootaround Tuesday morning, and awaited Villanova, the defending national champion, that night. The Hoyas were generally beaten up. Thompson said junior guard Tre Campbell suffered a knee injury in the crash and “probably will not be able to play.” Thompson himself hit his knee, and said he would get checked out Wednesday morning back in Washington.
“We’re talking about it, just because it was so horrible,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, in a couple of hours, we’ve got to lock in. I don’t think it’s to the point of not being focused on Villanova. But it’s something we all experienced together.”
Thompson and staff members from Georgetown athletics were trying to track down the family from the car, just to check on their condition. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Thompson said.
The Hoyas lost to second-ranked Villanova on Tuesday. And it seemed to be the second-most memorable event on a one-night trip.
“The only thing that’s clear in my head is the impact and just looking and seeing their car rolling,” Thompson said. “That image is etched in my brain.”