NC church mourns fiery bus crash that killed 8

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 3, 2013 at 10:06 pm •  Published: October 3, 2013
Advertisement
;

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — After the fiery crash of a church bus in Tennessee, Daniel Morrison knew a phone call would be coming.

His parents were among a group of seniors from a North Carolina church who had eagerly awaited their big annual outing, a trip to a three-day festival in Gatlinburg, Tenn., featuring gospel singers and speakers.

But on the way back Wednesday to Statesville in North Carolina, the church bus carrying the members blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer, police said.

All told, the wreck on Interstate 40 in northeastern Tennessee killed eight people, leaving the bus on its side next to the tractor-trailer, the wreckage extending across two lanes of traffic and partly into the median. Fourteen others were hurt, two in critical condition.

When Morrison was told about the crash, he feared the worst.

Then a pastor at the Front Street Baptist Church called late at night and broke the devastating news: His parents, Randy and Barbara Morrison, both 66 and married for nearly 50 years, were dead.

His father, who had once worked for a trucking company and his mother, once a school teacher, were gone.

"I'm still processing it," said Daniel Morrison, one of the couple's five children, pausing to shake his head. He said both had looked forward to the trip, having devoted so much to their church.

Morrison said his parents were always there for him - especially after his wife Monica died in December of a brain aneurysm. His parents stayed long hours at his house, helping him raise his 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

"You expect things to happen - you don't expect them to happen in one year," he said. "I know the Lord has a reason for everything, but I don't know what it is yet."

The Tennessee Highway Patrol on Thursday afternoon identified seven of the eight people killed.

Six of the dead were members of the Statesville church, including Randy Morrison, who police said was driving the bus, and his wife, Barbara.

Other victims from the church are 95-year-old Cloyce Matheny, 69-year-old Brenda Smith, 62-year-old Marsha McLelland and 73-year-old John Wright. All were from Statesville except Wright, from Mocksville, N.C.

The Highway Patrol says the bus, once the tire ruptured, cross the median into oncoming traffic. The tractor-trailer caught fire.

One person in the sport utility vehicle, Trent Roberts, 24, of Knoxville, was killed.

The driver of the tractor-trailer also was killed but has not yet been identified.

And the partial government shutdown has affected the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board isn't sending investigators to Tennessee to probe the deadly crash - even though it's the type of accident the agency would typically look into. Nearly all of the board's 400 employees have been furloughed because of the shutdown, including accident investigators.

Jerry Wright is the brother of victim John Wright, who had been a member of the church for 50 years and had been a deacon. He said he heard the sad news from his nephew on Thursday morning. His brother's wife, 62-year-old Beverly Wright, was seriously hurt.

Continue reading this story on the...