Tennessee Highway Patrol announces results of investigation into fatal Jefferson County church bus crash

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The scene on I-40 six months ago is one many will never forget - a church bus on its way back to Statesville, North Carolina lost control and crossed the median, hitting an SUV and tractor trailer. Eight people died, including six people on the bus. Passengers recall what they heard:

"I heard a tire blow. I was on the back seat taking a nap, but it was loud enough that it woke me up," said Sand Boyer.

"We think the tire blew - you can't blame anybody. Accidents happen," said Steve Swaim.

After an extensive investigation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol agrees - saying a tire failure is to blame for the wreck.

"The tire failure on the bus does not appear to be a manufacturing defect. Evidence indicates that impact to the tire probably occurred to the tire during the last 50 miles of travel," said Colonel Tracy Trott, with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Troopers said they're not sure what the tire hit, saying it could have been a pot hole, a rock or something else. But they said no one could have prevented what happened next.

"We feel like when the tire got on the road and started getting up to highway speeds and highway temperatures, is when it suffered the failure that it did," said Trooper Andy Shelton, with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The THP said none of the drivers involved in the crash were impaired and speed wasn't an issue either.

"There will be no grand jury investigation. No criminal acts have been committed in this terrible crash," said District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn.

The case is close, but the memories of what happened that day will likely stay on the minds of everyone involved for a long time to come.

THP officers say an investigation shows a blown tire caused a fatal bus crash on I-40 in Jefferson County that left eight people dead last October.

According to THP, the crash happened around 2 p.m. on I-40 Eastbound near mile marker 423 when a bus "sustained a left-front tire failure" and the driver lost control.

THP says the bus then shot across the median, broke through the cable barrier and hit a Chevy Tahoe and a tractor trailer. The bus flipped onto its right side when it came to rest.

Six of the 18 people on the bus died. THP reports five were ejected and killed and one died inside the bus. One of three people in the Chevy Tahoe was killed and the tractor trailer driver died in the crash as well.

Fourteen people were injured.

“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,” Colonel Trott said.

“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,” he added. “It was an accident and we continue to keep those affected in our thoughts.”

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is scheduled to announce the results of a six-month long investigation into a fatal bus crash in Jefferson County that killed eight people on Monday.

The crash involved a church bus, a semi truck and an SUV on I-40 westbound near mile marker 423. Six people on the bus were killed. The driver of the semi and a passenger in the SUV were also killed.

THP says it will hold a joint news conference on Monday, April 28 at 11 a.m. to announce the investigation results.

Local 8 News will have a crew on the scene.

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