Driver who crashed bus into DIA was wife, grandmother and mother of 4

Posted at 12:12 PM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 21:59:55-04

DENVER -- A wife and mother is dead and a family is grieving as an entire school district recovers from Sunday afternoon's tragic bus accident at Denver International Airport. 

Kari Chopper, a 43-year-old bus driver with Legacy High School, died in the crash Sunday that sent 15 students to the hospital, along with three coaches, who were removed from the scene in critical condition. 

The crashed bus was amid a convoy of three buses picking up students from Legacy High School's varsity football team after a trip to California. 

In a police update on Monday, officers deferred to the medical examiner's office to identify the woman. Officials later confirmed Chopper died on the scene of the crash. 

An initial autopsy revealed Chopper died due to blunt force injuries, however it's still not known what led to the crash. 

After picking up students from the airport terminal, the driver of the bus that led the convoy departed, then took a left turn to return to the terminal loop. Police say that, while making the turn, the driver drove off the highway into the pillar.

"It's a big mystery that we're in the process of trying to get an answer to," police said in Monday's press conference. 

Josh Chopper, Kari Chopper's husband, said the accident has taken a heavy toll, confirming that his wife perished in the crash. 

"With the heaviest of hearts, I am letting the world know that my wonderful love of my life Kari Chopper has gone home to hold God's hand and to watch over us all," Chopper wrote, noting his family is fundraising for his wife's funeral. 

He told Denver7 that his wife had no medical issues that he knew of. He suggested traffic congestion at the airport could have played a role in the crash.

Chopper said his wife worked as an Adams 12 bus driver for a number of years and took her job seriously.

In a release on Monday, school officials said Chopper did pass a physical for her job on May 10. Drivers take physicals every two years. 

Also injured in the crash were head coach Wayne Voorhees and coaches Matt Kroupa and Kyle Rider. Those coaches were all rushed in critical condition to local hospitals. They have not yet been released. 

The Legacy High School football team won't practice on Monday, although all 15 students taken to local hospitals have been released.

A police investigation into the crash continues, however, they say it will take time to flesh out all the details. 

Although officers believe Chopper sped on the airport's roadways — officers estimated she was driving between 30-and-40 miles per hour — they may not be able to confirm whether or not she had a medical emergency. 

Toxicology reports won't be available for six to eight weeks. 

The superintendent of the district, Chris Gdowski, issued a letter to staff and families Monday thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers.


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