- October 3-vehicle crash in eastern Tennessee left eight people dead, police say
- Highway patrol says blunt-force impact caused tire to blow, bus to veer across median
- Inquiry turns up no evidence that drivers were impaired or bus was in disrepair
- Bus was carrying seniors home from religious conference in Gatlinburg
An October three-vehicle collision that left eight people dead in eastern Tennessee was caused by a blown front tire on a church bus, investigators said Monday.
The bus was traveling east on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County, Tennessee, when the tire blew, causing the driver to lose control. The bus veered into the median and ran through a cable barrier before crashing into a Chevy Tahoe and tractor-trailer in the westbound lanes.
"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," Col. Tracy Trott of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.
He added that there is no evidence any of the drivers in the crash were impaired or distracted. There was also nothing to indicate the bus wasn't well-maintained, he said.
The bus, which was owned by Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina, was carrying 18 passengers, five of whom were ejected and killed. Another died inside the bus, while one of the three occupants of the Tahoe died, as did the tractor-trailer's driver.
The bus was carrying a group of seniors on their way back home from a religious conference. The group was called "Young at Heart," pastor Rick Cruz said at the time.
They were returning home from the 17th annual Fall Jubilee conference in Gatlinburg after three days of preaching and singing.
"We do know that there were several that went on to be with the Lord," Cruz told his congregants during a sermon after the crash.