American Red Cross assists UT Medical Center, pastoral staff after bus crash

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The American Red Cross' Family Assistance Center at UT Medical Center was set up within a few hours of the Jefferson County crash involving a church bus, tractor trailer and SUV.

"To help families be reunited after the tragedy. And we just wanted to be here with nurses and mental health support to support them through the next few days that they would encompass," said Mary Beth Birge, Regional Disaster Program Officer for the American Red Cross.

Troopers say it appears there was a problem with the church bus' left front tire, causing the driver to lose control, crash through the median, hit the SUV and then the tractor trailer. Eight people died. All of them - except for Trent Roberts - were from out of town. Fourteen others were injured - all but two from North Carolina. The Red Cross set up a special phone line for their family members.

"It was open to help maybe out of state family members who wanted to call and get information, to talk to someone," said Birge.

As family members began showing up, the Red Cross worked with UT Medical's pastoral staff and pastoral staff from Front Street Baptist Church in North Carolina to support them.

"We were available to sit with them, to listen with them, and if they wanted to talk with us, that's fine. If they needed a plate of food, we went and got it for them. We made sure that people ate and drank. It's very important to stay hydrated during these times," said Dianne Britton, a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

They also made sure the families had a place to stay.

"We basically made sure that they didn't have to worry about where they were going to sleep at night. And in doing that, it freed them up to worry about their family members," said Britton.

As tragic as the crash was, there is some hope: eight of the 14 injured were listed in critical condition after the crash. As of Friday afternoon, that number was down to just two in critical condition.

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