Investigators inspect church bus in deadly Jefferson Co. crash

Investigators inspect church bus for clues in deadly Jefferson Co. crash

Posted:
The condition of the tires on this bus is still being investigated. The condition of the tires on this bus is still being investigated.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - As family and friends pray for those who perished in the Jefferson County crash or were injured Wednesday, authorities continue their investigation into why it happened.

They say it could take months to reach the answer.

The wreck involved a bus carrying members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., an SUV and a tractor-trailer truck. The crash killed eight people and injured 14 others.

The bus, which belonged to the church, is being examined at the Department of Transportation in Newport.

Investigators are already rethinking one of the possible scenarios.

The said Wednesday it is possible a tire blowout on the bus may have started the chain of events that led to the crash.

At a news conference at the Jefferson Co. Rescue Squad Thursday, "blowout" was replaced by "a tire malfunction."

The change in wording may or may not be significant, but federal authorities estimate tire failures account for about 11,000 traffic accidents each year in the U.S.

Common causes of tire failure include hot weather, poor road conditions or debris, manufacturing defects or poorly maintained tires.

The condition of the tires on this bus is still being investigated.

Charlotte station WSOC-TV raises questions about the bus's registration or lack of it.

Because it crossed state lines, the Front Street Baptist Church bus should have been registered with the Department of Transportation.

But Charlotte Charter owner Lee Helms tells WSOC the markings aren't where they're supposed to be.

"Regulations say it has to be this size letters and on each side of the bus. So both sides. Both sides, plus the phone number and locations," Helms said.

Aerial views of the bus at the crash scene showed no visible signs of a DOT number.

When WSOC entered the church's name into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website, the search came up empty.

A search by 6 News came up empty as well.

Church buses are exempt from some federal safety requirements like record keeping, that's mandatory for commercial charter buses, but church buses are still required to have annual safety inspections.

Details of those inspections have not yet been made public.

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