THP blames deadly Jefferson County bus crash on tire failure; ca

THP blames deadly Jefferson County bus crash on tire failure; calls it a 'tragic accident'

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A church bus from Statesville, N.C, an SUV and a tractor trailer were involved in the crash on Interstate 40 westbound near mile marker 423 on October 2, 2013. A church bus from Statesville, N.C, an SUV and a tractor trailer were involved in the crash on Interstate 40 westbound near mile marker 423 on October 2, 2013.
By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - In an almost 500 page report, the Tennessee Highway Patrol Critical Incident Response Team detailed what happened in last October's bus crash that killed eight people and injured 14 others. According to THP the crash occurred due to a tire failure caused by some sort of impact to the tire.

Previous story: 8 dead, 14 injured in Jefferson County church bus crash

Eight people were killed in the three-vehicle crash which happened approximately 2 p.m. on October 2, 2013.

Investigators say the bus, owned by Front Street Baptist Church of Statesville, N.C., was traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 near mile marker 423 in Jefferson County when its left front tire blew out, causing the driver to lose control.

The bus careened into the median, struck the cable barrier on the eastbound lanes, and hit a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and a Volvo tractor trailer. The bus came to rest on its right side.

Eighteen people were in the church bus six people were killed. The driver of the tractor trailer also died. THP believes the impact to the tire occurred about 50 miles before the crash occurred and that the tire failure does not appear to be from a manufacturing defect.

“We feel he probably hit an object in the road perhaps a pot hole because we know he went through a construction zone. There was a very clear indication of an impact to the tire that caused the damage though,” said Andy Shelton with THP’s Critical Incident Response Team.

Five of the bus's occupants were ejected and died at the scene. Another occupant died inside the bus.

One of the three people in the SUV died as did the driver of the tractor trailer. Fourteen others were injured.

The bus driver did have a commercial driver’s license as required by law but the bus did not have a DOT number.

Colonel Trott says even a DOT number and inspection wouldn't have prevented the crash.

None of the drivers were impaired at the time of the crash.

According to District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn no criminal charges will be filed.

“No criminal acts have been committed in this terrible crash. It was a tragic crash,” said Dunn.

“I would call it a tragic crash, people at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's an incident that happens every day on the road where people have a flat tire,” said Colonel Trott. “This was a tragic event that claimed the lives of eight individuals by no fault of any one person. We tasked local troopers, members of our Critical Incident Response Team and Criminal Investigation Division to conduct a thorough investigation that found no evidence of impairment on any drivers involved in the crash, no evidence that the drivers were distracted and no evidence that the bus was not well-maintained. It was an accident and we continue to keep those affected in our thoughts.”

The family of Trent Roberts, who was a victim in the SUV, released this statement.

“We are extremely grateful to all the professionals who contributed to the accident investigation. We value and appreciate the compassion, expertise and diligence of the entire investigative team from the moment they arrived on the accident scene through today’s press conference. As was mentioned in the press conference, we must continue to rely on god for strength and healing. The continued prayers and support from so many are also greatly appreciated.”

The bus belonged to Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C. While the bus did not have a DOT number, as required by law, according to THP a citation was not issued. The church registered for one after the crash.


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