Eight fatalities are reported; 14 are injured
Bus carried senior adult church members
Bus was heading from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to North Carolina
It apparently crossed median and struck a semi and a car
The church bus involved in a deadly three-vehicle collision in eastern Tennessee was carrying a group of seniors on their way back home from a religious conference.
The group was called “Young at Heart,” said Rick Cruz, the pastor of the Front Street Baptist in North Carolina.
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 Wednesday night.
Authorities are expected to release more information Thursday. But this is what they know so far:
The Wednesday crash may have been caused when the bus blew a front tire, crossed a grassy median of Interstate 40, clipped an SUV and collided with a tractor-trailer.
Six people on the eastbound bus were killed, along with one of three occupants of the SUV and the tractor-trailer driver, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said in a statement.
“We hope and pray that there will be no more,” Sgt. Bill Miller told reporters Wednesday evening.
Fourteen people were injured, the highway patrol said.
The wreck occurred about 2 p.m. in Jefferson County, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, said Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls. It was on Interstate 40 near the split with Interstate 81.
People started to gather at Front Street Baptist in North Carolina as soon as they heard the news, CNN affiliate WBTV reported.
“I’m in a state of shock,” Jerry Wright told the affiliate.
Front Street Baptist, on its Facebook page, thanked people Wednesday evening for their prayers.
“We know that God is in control and we need His comfort and peace,” it said.