In September of 2013, a bus owned by the Front Street Baptist Church was involved in a horrific collision on Interstate 40 that claimed the lives of six church members, as well as a passenger of one of the vehicles it struck and the driver of another. The accident has been under investigation over the last several months, and on Monday the members of the church, as well as the community of Statesville, Tennessee, received the final word from police regarding the fatal accident that claimed so many of their loved ones and friends. The incident has been ruled a traffic event, with nobody to blame.
The decision regarding the cause of the accident was announced via a press conference that aired out of Knoxville on a local television Channel, and was privately viewed by the church’s leader, Pastor Tim Stutts, along with several of his staff members.
The crash took place on October 2, 2013. According to investigators, the 1997 Metrotrans Europa Motorcoach that was carrying eighteen church members was travelling westbound on the highway when its front left tire failed. The bus driver lost control of the bus and subsequently crossed the median and went through the barrier on the opposite side of the highway. It continued into eastbound traffic where it struck a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe as well as a 2014 Volvo tractor trailer before flipping onto its side. Of the 18 church members onboard the church-owned bus, five were ejected from the vehicle and one was killed inside the bus. The Tahoe was carrying two passengers, one of whom was killed, as was the driver of the truck. More than a dozen others sustained injuries.
The accident investigation results were announced by Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott, who was flanked by members of the Critical Incident Response Team, the country’s emergency services director, the sheriff and mayor of Jefferson County and the District Attorney for the local Judicial District. According to Trott, “This was a tragic event that claimed the lives of eight individuals by no fault of any one person. We tasked local troopers, members of our Critical Incident Response Team and Criminal Investigation Division to conduct a thorough investigation that found no evidence of impairment on any drivers involved in the crash, no evidence that the drivers were distracted and no evidence that the bus was not well-maintained. This tragedy was the result of blunt-force impact to the front tire that weakened its internal structure and caused the tire’s failure. There was no evidence of any pre-existing condition to the tire. It was an accident and we continue to keep those affected in our thoughts.”