Five years ago, on October 2nd, 2013, a horrific highway collision occurred in Jefferson County when an out-of-state church bus blew its tire and crashed near the split of I-40 and I-81.
Six residents of a North Carolina senior citizens group aboard the bus were killed, along with two individuals in other vehicles. The bus was traveling back to North Carolina after the Front Street's "Young at Heart" group members went to Gatlinburg for a Christian conference. Members ranged in age from 62 to 95.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol's (THP) investigation determined that the front left tire on the bus failed. When the tire failed, the bus crossed the median of I-40 and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer and an SUV.
Witnesses reported hearing the tire blow just before the church bus careened out of control, crossing the median and slamming head-on into a semitruck and an SUV. Officials stated the bus driver, who also died in the crash, was powerless to control it after the tire blew.
The tire sustained prior damage shortly before it blew, investigators with the THP investigators found. They were not able to pinpoint the actual site or cause of the earlier impact that weakened the tire's internal structure, said a lieutenant with the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) of the THP.
The THP lead investigator announced that the "heat build-up on the roadway, after a certain period of time . . . causes the tire failure."
The tire company earlier settled a lawsuit with injured riders and their survivors.
There is very little oversight of church vans and buses by either Tennessee or federal regulatory agencies. That can cause or contribute to deadly highway accidents.
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a similar wreck, it's always prudent to learn all that you can about your legal rights to seek compensation.