by: Eric Philips Updated:
KNOXVILLE, TN - Wooden crosses mark the spot where a Statesville church bus crashed two days ago in eastern Tennessee.
Six of the eight people killed were long-time members of the local church.
“I heard it over the scanner and then came down here and saw the smoke and everything,” said Tennessee resident Mike Haynes.
Ever since the accident, Haynes and his wife have stayed away from I-40.
“It’s just nerve-racking. It’s hard to see it on TV when they show it,” Haynes said.
He is glad someone has set up a memorial for those who were killed.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
At the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville the Red Cross is helping the survivors and their families with a place to stay, food and counselors.
“I’ve seen amazing people from East Tennessee and your community, really bonding together in many ways,” said Michelle Hankes, with the Red Cross.
On Friday, the hospital told Channel 9 a woman from Statesville has been released. Eleven are still recovering in the hospital.
People Channel 9 spoke with near the crash site said the memorial is proof the victims are in many thoughts and prayers.
“I think it’s very nice for people to remember all the pain that was caused by that accident,” said Damon Porter.
The people behind the memorial are not known and there wasn’t a sign or a note at the scene.
Channel 9 learned the two survivors in the SUV were released from the hospital.
Family and neighbors have shared memories and stories about the people killed in the accident.
John Wright is one of the victims.
His wife Beverly is still in the hospital. They just celebrated a wedding anniversary and they were very excited about their church trip to Gatlinburg, family members said.
Neighbors said they can’t believe John is gone.
They are praying for Beverly to recover, but said it will still be hard for her to come back without her husband.
“Knowing John is gone will be very tough for Beverly. They were real close. What one did, the other did,” said family friend Mark Corriher.
On Friday, Gov. Pat McCrory sent out a statement on the bus crash saying, “We eagerly await the results of a thorough examination from Tennessee authorities so we can learn if there is anything that can be done to prevent this type of accident from occurring again. Today, however, we need to come together as a state and support the Statesville community as they deal with this tragic loss.”
Pastor solemn after returning to Statesville
Front Street Baptist senior pastor Tim Stutts made his way back to Statesville Firday and said it was difficult to leave the families in Knoxville.
He was solemn as he spoke at a press conference Friday afternoon.
“One of the most difficult parts as a pastor is not being able to be in two places at one time. We know that we have a hurting congregation and family members, and to want to be here and minister here and to want to be in Knoxville has been very difficult,” Stutts said.
Nancy Armstrong has known Thomas and Brenda Smith for 35 years. Brenda was killed in the accident and her husband is in serious condition.
“We’re still. We're still in shock. All of us here are still in shock because we just never expected anything like that to happen of course you never do,” said Armstrong.
Stutts said the best thing anyone can do now is pray.
“Our biggest request is that you continue to pray for those who are in the hospital and the families who are grieving,” Stutts said.
The church said they will have pictures and bios of everyone who was on that bus on its website. Check for those bios here.
The church is planning a special service to pray for those still recovering.
For anyone wishing to donate online to the Front Street Baptist Family Support Fund please click here.
For updates on victim's conditions from the church, click here.