Jefferson County church bus crash victim says she's grateful

Jefferson County church bus crash victim says she's grateful for support

Posted:
Hellard was given flowers Tuesday from the non-profit group Random Acts of Flowers. The flowers were donated by the family of victim Trent Roberts. Hellard was given flowers Tuesday from the non-profit group Random Acts of Flowers. The flowers were donated by the family of victim Trent Roberts.
"Everybody here has been so wonderful to all of us. I can't tell you how many pastors came and talked to me. It was great," said Norma Hellard. "Everybody here has been so wonderful to all of us. I can't tell you how many pastors came and talked to me. It was great," said Norma Hellard.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The first victim of last week's deadly church bus crash on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County to speak the media said Tuesday she's grateful for the support of loved ones.

Norma Hellard, 78, was on the church bus and was one of more than twenty people involved in that crash. She says she feels blessed to have only sustained what she considers minor injuries.

She's dealing with five broken ribs, a broken pelvic bone, and a fracture on her foot.

Hellard was given flowers Tuesday from the non-profit group Random Acts of Flowers. As it turned out, those flowers were donated by a family of another victim in the crash, Trent Roberts, 24, from Knoxville. Hellard said the Roberts family came by and visited her personally.

The accident happened last Wednesday around mile marker 423 near Dandridge. Members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C. were on their way home from an event in Gatlinburg.

Hellard told 6 News she doesn't remember much about the crash, as she was actually asleep at the time.

"The last thing I remember was flying through the air. I heard the screeching and I felt the fishtailing of the bus," Hellard said.

Authorities say a tire malfunction caused the driver of the bus to close control. Eight people were killed and 14 others were injured when the church bus crossed a median and crashed into a tractor trailer and an SUV.

"I remember the smoke and the fumes, and being afraid it was going to catch fire," said Hellard.

She says she lost several of her friends and church members in the deadly accident, but has been lucky to have the support of loved ones to help her through her recovery and grief.

"Everybody here has been so wonderful to all of us. I can't tell you how many pastors came and talked to me. It was great," said Hellard.

Nine people continue to recover from their injuries at UT Medical Center, including Norma Hellard. Two of the survivors are in critical condition.

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