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Church bus crash update: Troopers work to identify victims

By Meaghan Smith, msmith@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 03 2013 02:59:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 03 2013 08:38:13 PM CDT

We're learning new facts about the deadly crash in Jefferson County on I-40 involving a church bus.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. -

We're learning new facts about the deadly crash in Jefferson County on I-40 involving a church bus, a tractor-trailer and an SUV.

Eight people died in a wreck so horrific it shut down the interstate for most of the night.

Thursday morning, investigators called a press conference to release details about how it all happened. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families," says Brad Phillips, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Director.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol tells us eight people lost their lives Wednesday afternoon on I-40 in Jefferson County. They say a church bus had a tire malfunction and the driver lost control. "The driver's history -- we can't get into that at this point in time. As far as any safety issues with the bus, prior knowledge of that, that's all under investigation as well," says Sgt. Bill Miller with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Troopers tell us the bus went across the median, through the cable barrier, into the westbound lanes and hit a Chevy Tahoe. The bus then hit a tractor-trailer. "This incident, this crash was such a horrific crash," says Sgt. Miller

Six people from the church bus died, along with a passenger of the SUV and the driver of the tractor-trailer. 14 others were rushed to the UT Medical Center. "We now have two that are critical, seven serious and five in stable condition," Phillips said Thursday morning.

The church bus, traveling back home to Statesville, North Carolina, had 18 people on board who had been on a senior citizen trip. 

Troopers say their bus was equipped with seatbelts and are investigating if they were being used.

They'll also pull the bus's service records.

"All the data, it will be looked at.  It will be examined thoroughly.  Nothing will be over looked.  We're going to think of every possible scenario," says Sgt. Miller.

THP tells us their investigation will take some time.

The wreck is even shocking to those who work them almost every day. "It's probably the worst that I've seen in my career, and I've worked several counties in the past 17 years," says Sgt. Miller.

We're told some people were burned very badly and others they had to pull dental records to identify.

Everyone but the driver of the tractor-trailer has been identified as of 4 p.m.

Church Bus Fatalities

Cloyce Matheny (M), 95, Statesville, N.C.

Brenda Smith, 69, Statesville, N.C.

Marsha Mclelland, 62, Statesville, N.C. (wife of injured Ed Mclelland)

Barbara Morrison, 66, Statesville, N.C. (wife of Randy Morrison)

Randy Morrison (Driver), 66, Statesville, N.C. (husband of Barbara Morrison)

John Wright, 73, Mocksville, N.C.

Church Bus Injuries

Thomas L. Smith, 74, Statesville, N.C.

Joanna L. Elledge, 70, Statesville, N.C.

Benny Elledge, 72, Statesville, N.C.

Sandra Boyer, 67, Statesville, N.C.

Marvin Boyer, 74, Statesville, N.C.

Doris Swaim, 68, Statesville, N.C.

Steven Swaim, 68, Statesville, N.C.

Norma J. Hellard, 78, Statesville, N.C.

Beverly Wright, 62, Mocksville, N.C.

Brenda Jolly, 70, Statesville, N.C.

Wanda Martin, 63, Statesville, N.C.

Ed Mclelland, 64, Statesville, N.C. (husband of deceased Marsha Mclelland)

Chevrolet Tahoe Fatality

Trent Roberts (rear passenger), 24, Knoxville, Tenn.

Chevrolet Tahoe Injuries

Tim Wacker (front passenger), 28, Knoxville, Tenn.

Jordan D. Payne (M) (Driver), 24, Knoxville, Tenn.