ROCK HILL, S.C. -- A bus carrying almost 50 people crashed over the weekend, sending 42 people to the hospital, and killing four.
The youngest victim, Darice “Junior” Hicks, was only 8-years-old.
On Monday, Courtney Hicks, the little boy’s mother, gathered the courage to speak out about the devastating loss.
“I’m thinking my baby is just scared, maybe he’s just a little beat up but he’s strong. I just had no idea I would be burying my baby boy,” Hicks said, clutching Junior’s favorite football.
She recalled the phone call she received from a nurse, telling her there had been a horrible accident, that her husband was in the hospital, and that she needed to get there as soon as possible.
“And I said but where is my son? My son was on the same bus, where is my son?” Hicks said. “They said Junior is dead. I lost it. I was like, my baby, my baby is dead. That was the longest two-hour drive.”
It was two hours before she made it to the hospital to lay eyes on her only son for the last time.
“I said is he cold? Because I wanted to hold him while he was still warm,” she said. “He was cold, but his cheek was warm. I just kept rubbing it, touching his face. My baby.”
A video of the team on the bus just before the crash was posted on Facebook.
Now Hicks says she watches it over and over again. She can barely make out the top of her son’s head. But it is the last image of him alive.
“I have his pictures, I have his memories, I have his stories,” she said.
She also has his football. His small gloves. And his giant smile, never gone from their hearts.
“Junior was the life of everybody, the protector of everybody. And he was the most loving kid,” she said. “I swear, he told me he loved me 50 times a day.”
Courtney’s husband Darice Lamont Hicks, Junior’s father, returned home from the hospital Monday with broken bones and a broken heart. She says he held their child in his broken arms as he died.
“He was holding him,” she said, “They took him out of his arms. He was holding him when the accident happened.”
She says knowing they were able to spend Junior’s last moments together is a small comfort.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through this but with my faith,” she said.
A memorial service/vigil for the victims of the bus crash will be held Thursday in the Clinton College gymnasium at 7pm.
Copyright 2016 WCNC