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
  • Woman, teenager found dead in Lake Erie; 2 missing

    The bodies of two of four missing boaters were recovered in western Lake Erie on Thursday, a day after the group left for an afternoon of fishing and sent pictures to relatives.

    April 18, 2014

  • Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

    Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that’s similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it’s not too hot and not too cold for life.
     

    April 18, 2014

  • Lordstown eyes fall rollout of updated Cruze

    Production of the updated Chevrolet Cruze is tentatively set to begin early this fall at the General Motors facility in Lordstown, a plant official confirmed.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • A year after background check defeat, modest goals

    Democratic worries about this November’s elections, a lack of Senate votes and House opposition are forcing congressional gun-control supporters to significantly winnow their 2014 agenda, a year after lawmakers scuttled President Barack Obama’s effort to pass new curbs on firearms.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT

    Anxious students — not to mention their parents — can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years.
     

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Poll finds Clinton trouncing entire GOP field

    Hillary Clinton isn’t only the strong front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but she’s well ahead of every potential Republican rival, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
     

    April 16, 2014

  • Ukraine bares teeth against eastern uprising

    In the first Ukrainian military action against a pro-Russian uprising in the east, government forces repelled an attack Tuesday by about 30 gunmen at an airport, beginning what the president called an “anti-terrorist operation” to try to restore authority over the restive region.
     

    April 16, 2014

  • U.N. Security Council sees grim images of Syrian dead

    The U.N. Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France’s ambassador said. The pictures showed people who were emaciated, with their bones protruding, and some bearing the marks of strangulation and repeated beatings, and eyes having been gouged out.

    April 16, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia causing Ukraine unrest

    The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but suggested that President Barack Obama has not yet concluded that Vladimir Putin’s actions warrant broader sanctions on key Russian economic sectors.

    April 15, 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