I-40 reopens in Jefferson County at scene of deadly crash

I-40 reopens in Jefferson County at scene of deadly crash

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The tractor trailer caught fire and the bus overturned in the crash. The tractor trailer caught fire and the bus overturned in the crash.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt Bill Miller (left) said it appears the left front tire blew, causing the bus driver to lose control. Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt Bill Miller (left) said it appears the left front tire blew, causing the bus driver to lose control.
Front Street Baptist Church Pastor Rick Cruz (center) spoke briefly about their faith and thanked everyone for the prayers they have received. Front Street Baptist Church Pastor Rick Cruz (center) spoke briefly about their faith and thanked everyone for the prayers they have received.

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - All lanes of Interstate 40 in Jefferson County reopened early Thursday, about 15 hours after a horrific crash killed eight people and injured 14 others.

Traffic is now moving where a church bus crossed the median of the interstate Wednesday afternoon and crashed into two other vehicles.

Investigators say the bus carrying members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C. was traveling eastbound when its front left tire popped. The bus went through a median barricade before slamming into a tractor trailer and an SUV pulling a boat trailer that were traveling westbound.

The tractor trailer caught fire and the bus overturned.

In a Thursday morning press briefing, Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Phillips said two crash victims remain in critical condition.

Seven people are listed in serious condition and three are in stable condition. Two victims were discharged. The surviving victims were all taken to UT Medical Center in Knoxville.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Miller said the bus was owned by Front Street Baptist Church. Authorities are not yet certain who was driving the bus at the time of the crash.

Much of the investigation will center on why the bus veered sharply across the interstate median. Sgt. Miller said it appears the left front tire blew, causing the bus driver to lose control.

"It's extremely, extremely difficult to maintain control of that vehicle," Sgt. Miller said about what happens when the tire blows on a large bus traveling at highway speeds.

Phillips said some victims on the bus were able to crawl or walk out, but emergency personnel had to extract some who were trapped inside.

Authorities are still sifting through evidence and interviewing witnesses. They also intend to interview survivors. They say it may be several days before they can release the identities of the victims.


Statesville church members mourn

In a separate, brief press conference at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, Pastor Rick Cruz confirmed that six church members died in the crash.

Pastor Cruz spoke briefly about their faith and thanked everyone for the prayers they have received.

"It's been a tremendous outpouring of love and support from the community," Cruz said.

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