The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 2, 2013

8 killed in church bus crash in Tenn.

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — A bus taking a church group home to North Carolina blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer Wednesday in a fiery wreck that killed eight people, authorities said.

Fourteen other people were hurt in the accident in northeastern Tennessee, including eight who were in critical condition. The bus was carrying members of the Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., which is about 140 miles east of the crash site.

The group of seniors, known as Young at Heart, had been to the 17th annual Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg, Tenn., an event featuring gospel singers and speakers.  Its website described the gathering as “three days of singing, laughing and preaching” for “mature and senior believers.”

Inside the Statesville church, people were crying and hugging each other. One woman whispered, “It’s going to be all right” while hugging another woman. A memorial service was held Wednesday evening. Police cordoned off the church to prevent reporters from talking to those who attended.

Following the service, Front Street Baptist associate pastor Rick Cruz remarked, “This is a time of difficulty, but we trust in God ... that He’s fair. ... All your prayers are appreciated.”  

George Stadfeld, who has been a member of the church for eight years, said he knew everyone on the bus.

“We’re all shaken,” he said. “As bad as it is, they’re all Christians and I know where they’re at. I’ll join them later.”

Dionne Stutts, wife of Front Street Baptist senior pastor Tim Stutts, said her husband and another pastor from the church were en route to the wreck site.  

“They had been there and they were on their way home today,” she said. “We are devastated and just ask for the people to be praying.”

Authorities said the bus crossed the median and the cable barriers that divide the interstate about 2 p.m., clipped the oncoming SUV and slammed into the tractor-trailer, which burst into flames.

Several hours after the crash, clouds of smoke still rose from the tractor-trailer and tree branches that lined the highway were charred.

The bus was on its side next to the tractor-trailer, lying across two lanes of traffic and extending partially into the median.

The bus itself didn’t actually catch on fire, but there was some “heat exposure,” Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Brad Phillips said. Emergency responders were able to remove people who were alive rapidly to get them away from the flames and other Good Samaritans provided assistance.  

The SUV was about 50 yards away from the tractor-trailer. It was still upright, but the back half had been completely ripped off.

The interstate was completely shut down in both directions, and the scene was eerily quiet, despite the presence of many emergency workers.

“This is an extremely horrific event,” Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bill Miller said at an evening news conference.

He said authorities don’t know yet what caused the tire to blowout.

The injured were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. In addition to those in critical condition, two were in serious condition and four were stable.

State Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in an email 18 people were on the bus and six of them were killed. One person among the three in the SUV was killed and the tractor-trailer driver also died.

None of the victims were identified.

At the church, Jerry Wright said his 73-year-old brother, John, and his wife were on the bus, and he thinks his brother may have been driving the church bus because he had done so in the past.

“If he was driving, it’s going to be bad,” said Jerry Wright, 71. “I’ve been trying to ring them. I’ve been calling their phone, but it keeps ringing and ringing and ringing.”

Brady Johnson, superintendent of the Iredell County-Statesville City Schools, said a lot of people who work for the school system are church members. Johnson said he knew people on the bus and they were awaiting word on the conditions.

Johnson said the church had adopted N.B. Mills Elementary School, providing volunteers and school supplies for needy children.

Now, the school system is offering a high school auditorium as a site for a memorial.

“It hits the community as a whole when tragedy strikes. The whole community comes together,” he said.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • GROUNDED U.S., other countries ban flights to and from Israel

    A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on all flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.

    July 23, 2014

  • REPORT: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

    A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

    July 22, 2014

  • Veteran's Ducks Iraq vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks

    An Army veteran who hurt his back during the Iraq War is worried a citation will result in him losing his 14 pet ducks, which he says are therapeutic.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stacked Apartment.jpg New York building shows how mod design stacks up as cool

    In a city piled high with ambitious architecture, a seven-floor structure off the beaten path boasts a distinction of its own: It’s billed as the first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in the nation’s apartment capital.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scores dead in first major ground battle in Gaza

    The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price Sunday: It killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhood, reportedly used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.

    July 21, 2014

  • Traditional lottery games hold their own

    Ohio’s traditional lottery games are mostly doing well despite competition from their electronic counterparts at four racinos.

    July 20, 2014

  • HIV diagnosis rate fell by third in U.S. over decade

    The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the United States each year fell by one-third over the past decade, a government study finds. Experts celebrated it as hopeful news that the AIDS epidemic may be slowing in the U.S.

    July 20, 2014

  • Suddenly, the sun is eerily quiet: Where did the sunspots go?

    The sun has gone quiet. Almost too quiet.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.

    July 19, 2014

  • Israeli bulldozers destroy Hamas tunnels in Gaza

     Israeli bulldozers on Saturday demolished more than a dozen tunnels the military said were being used by Hamas gunmen to sneak beneath the southern border of the Jewish state and carry out attacks on its soldiers and civilians.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video