JEFFERSON COUNTY, TN -- Authorities say a tire on a Statesville church bus blew out and the bus hit a tractor-trailer and sport utility vehicle in northeastern Tennessee, killing eight people.
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The state Department of Safety and Homeland Security said the chartered bus crossed the median in Jefferson County about 2 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 40.
The bus clipped an oncoming SUV and hit the tractor-trailer, which burst into flames. The bus, which was heading eastbound, overturned.
The agency said eight people were killed and 14 people were hurt. Two are in critical condition, seven are serious condtion and five are in stable condition at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
The bus was returning to Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville and had 18 members on the bus. The people on the bus were part of the church’s Young at Heart Seniors Ministry, a tight-knit group that frequently traveled together.
Front Street Baptist
According to the church's website, a group from the church, Young at Heart, a group of seniors, visted a Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg.
Additionally, sources tell NBC Charlotte that officials from the church have been unable to reach members of their congregation who were known to be on the trip.
NBC Affiliate WBIR reports that of the eight fatalities, six are from the passenger bus, one from the tractor trailer, and one from the passenger vehicle.
The bus was traveling eastbound on I-40 near mile marker 423, when it crossed the median and crashed into a Chevy Tahoe. Then, authorities say the tractor trailer struck the bus.They continued that the tractor trailer caught fire, and the passenger bus overturned.
The tractor-trailer was fully engulfed when first responders arrived on the scene.
Nearby witnesses told reporters on the scene they heard loud booms at the time of the crash.
My prayers go out to Statesville's Front Street Baptist Church members and others involved in a 3-vehicle crash in TN today.— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) October 2, 2013
I-40 was closed in both directions at mile marker 423 in Jefferson County all Wednesday evening. All lanes were reopened early Thursday morning.
The National Transportation Board was contacted in regards to the crash, but the Tennessee Highway Patrol doesn't believe they'll get involved in the investigation.
If you believe you have a loved one who was involved in Wednesday's crash, call the Red Cross at (865) 305-5716.