Driver charged after woman killed in fiery church bus crash on I-77

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The driver of a church bus involved in a fiery crash on Interstate 77 Sunday afternoon that left a woman dead will face charges, according to the Highway Patrol.

Troopers said Scotty Garry Lewis has been charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the death of 87-year-old Daisy Withers.

Interstate 77 southbound at the West Boulevard exit had to be shut down Sunday afternoon after the crash and subsequent fire, officials said.

According to investigators with the Highway Patrol, Lewis, 62, was trying to change lanes to get off I-77 at the John Belk Freeway exit around 2:15 p.m. when he hit the concrete median face, causing the Victory Christian Center bus to catch fire.

(WATCH BELOW: Video courtesy of Matthew Thomas Bolt)

Officials said one person, Withers, was killed and four others were hospitalized.

Trooper Ray Peirce told Channel 9 that the bus driver was heading south in the right lane of I-77, approaching the exit for Wilkinson and West boulevards when he realized at the last moment he wanted to get off and swerved into the barrier.

The collision set off sparks that reached the fuel tank and it exploded, Pierce said.

"It doesn't take much. One slip up can cause a severe crash and your life can be lost in an instant," Pierce said. "I believe they tried to evacuate everyone from the bus but, unfortunately, the heat from the fire got too hot too quickly."

The activity bus was owned by Victory Christian Church and was transporting senior members of the church to lunch, troopers said.

Officials said the bus driver, Lewis, and passengers Marion Staten, Alicia Wilson and Anne Collins were all injured in the crash.

Of the four, Wilson's injuries are considered the most serious, church officials said.

The church hosted a prayer service for the victims Sunday evening.

"Pastor Gool is focusing on comforting and ministering to the family of those who have either lost loved ones or suffering and in recovery at this point in time," said the pastor's wife, Marilyn Gool.

Troopers are investigating the crash and said they do not suspect Lewis was impaired.