Investigation rules fatal Tenn. bus crash as tragic accident

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. —

Pastor Tim Stutts became emotional Monday as he remembered the families impacted by the last September’s bus crash that killed six members of Front Street Baptist Church.

Stutts, along with other staff members, asked for privacy while watching Monday’s press conference from Knoxville, but spoke with Channel 9 Monday afternoon.

The bus crash that killed eight people in October in Jefferson County, Tenn. was ruled a traffic event with no one at fault, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
 
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott joined members of the agency's Critical Incident Response Team on Monday to announce the results. District Attorney General James Dunn of the 4th Judicial District, Mayor Alan Palmieri and Sheriff Bud McCoig, both of Jefferson County, and Brad Phillips, the county's emergency services director and one of the first on the crash scene, were also in attendance.
 
The three-vehicle crash occurred around 2 p.m. Oct. 2, 2013, on Interstate 40 westbound near mile marker 423 in Jefferson County.
 
The investigation found a 1997 Metrotrans Europa Motorcoach, owned by Front Street Baptist Church, of Statesville, was traveling westbound on Interstate 40 in the left lane when it sustained a front left tire failure that caused the driver to lose control.
 
The bus traveled into the median, struck the cable barrier on the eastbound side of I-40, continued through the cable barrier, and hit a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe and a 2014 Volvo tractor-trailer. The bus came to rest on its right side.
 
There were eight fatalities as a result of the crash. The church bus carried 18 people, five of whom were ejected and fatally injured; one person died inside the bus. One of the three people in the Tahoe was killed, and the driver of the tractor-trailer died in the crash. Fourteen people suffered injuries. 
 
"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," Trott said.
 
"This tragedy was the result of blunt-force impact to the front tire that weakened its internal structure and caused the tire's failure. There was no evidence of any pre-existing condition to the tire," he added. "It was an accident and we continue to keep those affected in our thoughts."

Stutts said the new information learned Monday does bring some closure, but also painful memorials for those who worship at the church and know the families.

“The reality of the accident is in our hearts daily. Our hearts still grieve for the Roberts family and for the Farmer family, as well as the church members in our own congregation who lost loved ones,” Stutts said.