Pastor of church involved in North Knoxville deadly bus crash ta

Pastor of church involved in North Knoxville deadly bus crash talks safety

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Pastor Tom Hess says he believes the bus was properly maintained for the trip but KPD says, at this point in the investigation, it appears one federal regulation may have been violated. Pastor Tom Hess says he believes the bus was properly maintained for the trip but KPD says, at this point in the investigation, it appears one federal regulation may have been violated.
The crash happened Thursday afternoon at the intersection of North Broadway and Oglewood Avenue. The Knoxville Police Department said the bus driver told them the brakes failed, causing the bus to crash into a car and a pickup truck. The crash happened Thursday afternoon at the intersection of North Broadway and Oglewood Avenue. The Knoxville Police Department said the bus driver told them the brakes failed, causing the bus to crash into a car and a pickup truck.
By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A day after a deadly crash in North Knoxville involving a church bus from Indiana, the pastor of the church told 6 News the safety of the kids on the bus is the church's number one priority.

Previous story: 1 confirmed dead from multi-vehicle crash involving church bus in North Knoxville

The crash happened Thursday afternoon at the intersection of North Broadway and Oglewood Avenue. The Knoxville Police Department said the bus driver told them the brakes failed, causing the bus to crash into a car and a pickup truck.

The driver of the car, Jewell Winton, 54, was killed. Three adults and two children were taken to area hospitals. One child was kept overnight for observation. The rest of the children were taken back to Indiana Friday.

The children were on a mission trip from Berea Christian Church in Brazil, Ind.

Pastor Tom Hess says he believes the bus was properly maintained for the trip but KPD says, at this point in the investigation, it appears one federal regulation may have been violated.

He says before the mission trip to Tennessee the bus was checked out.

“Our property administrator at the church is very meticulous about taking care of the vehicles and maintenance. They just had new tires put on the bus for this trip,” said Pastor Hess.

According to Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Darrell Debusk, the cause of the crash is still being investigated but the bus driver told police the brakes on the bus failed.

“He was unable to stop the bus. The bus ran through the red light and into the intersection where it hit the KIA,” said Debusk.

The bus driver did have a commercial driver’s license, but according to KPD it appears the bus did not have a DOT number. 6 News looked up the name of the church on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website no DOT number was found. 

The bus may be in violation of a federal law as according to THP and Indiana State Police, a private passenger bus that carries more than 16 passengers over state lines is required to have a US DOT number. THP says without a DOT number, there is no way to keep track of the bus or check to see if it's driven by a person with a commercial driver's license.

6 News asked Hess if the church bus had a DOT number.

“That's out of my scope of knowledge,” said Hess.

Hess says safety is something the church takes very seriously. He says the children are the church's most valuable resource and the church will research what could have been done differently but Hess believes the bus was safe for the trip.

“We have a responsibility to the community to make sure, whether it's here or at home, that the vehicles are safe,” said Pastor Hess.

THP and KPD are still investigating. It could take several weeks until they are done with their separate investigations. The results will be sent to the DA. The DA will determine if charges will be placed in this incident.

According to THP it's a misdemeanor to not have a DOT number for a private passenger bus.

Police say Winton would likely have survived the crash if she had been wearing her seatbelt. KPD says she was sitting on top of the belt with it buckled to keep the reminder alarm from gong off. KPD wants to remind drivers to always properly buckle their seat belt.

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