8-year-old killed in bus crash died in father's arms, mother says

The mother of an 8-year-old boy killed in the charter bus crash Saturday spoke to Channel 9 about the loss of her son.

Reporter Ken Lemon learned Darice Hicks, from Rock Hill, was sleeping in his father’s arms when the bus crashed.

Three other people were killed and 42 were injured when the bus blew a tire and hit a concrete bridge column on Highway 74 near Hamlet in Richmond County.

Counselors were on campus Monday at Ebenezer Avenue Elemtary School.

Darice’s teacher said he talked all day about Saturday when he would be on the sidelines coaching with his dad.

They never made it to that game.

"I would never in a million years thought that I would be burying my son," said Darice’s mother, Courtney Finch Hicks.

Finch Hicks clutched her son’s football as she spoke to Lemon Monday. She said Saturday was supposed to be a special day for him.

He was with his father, Darice Hicks Sr., who loved being with his son.

The elder Hicks was a defensive coach for the Ramah Academy football team.

A coach recorded a Facebook live video of the team on a bus headed to a game in Fayetteville Saturday.

The father and son were together when the bus crashed.

"He was holding him when the accident happened. He had him when he came to. The first thing he screamed (was) for his son," Finch Hicks said.

Junior, as they call him, was still breathing after the crash. Darice’s mother got a phone call as she arrived at a wedding in Richmond. She then got another call on the way home.

“My baby is dead. That was the longest two-hour drive,” she said.

She said she just wanted to get back in time to hug him while he was still warm.

"I was just rubbing his face and his face was still warm,” Finch Hicks.

She said it helped that he died in his sleep and he had no scars. His body couldn't handle the trauma from a head injury.

"He felt no pain. He didn't have a broken bone in his body,” said grandmother Diane Finch.

They both said it also helps that he was with the father that he loved so much enjoying the game they both adored, but it's still a tough loss.

"There is no more Junior. My baby isn't here,” Finch Hicks said.

The boy's father will be released from the hospital Monday.

The family said they are working to make sure he understands he is not responsible for his son's passing.

Darice Jr.’s former teammates and athletes will honor him this year.

All of the teams in the Rock Hill Pee Wee and Small Fry leagues will wear a decal on their helmets with the No. 1. That was Darice’s uniform number.

He played both offense and defense for Demons Pee Wee team.

Officials with Rock Hill Parks and Recreation said the decals may be ready for games at Cherry Park as soon as this weekend.

Teto Hamilton, 19, Devonte Gibson, 21, and bus driver Brian Andre Kirkpatrick, 43, also died in the crash.

Local, state, federal officials investigate crash

The North Carolina Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board are involved in the investigation.

They are looking into why the tire blew and if all safety guidelines were followed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website shows the bus, owned by Sandy River Baptist Church in Chester, South Carolina, is only for nonbusiness use.

That means any transaction for its use is not allowed.

Highway Patrol officials did not say if anyone paid the church to use the bus saying the entire investigation could take weeks.

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