Update: Investigators work to identify Jefferson County crash victims

POSTED: 9:32 AM Dec 24 2013   UPDATED: 11:26 AM Oct 03 2013
AERIAL 1
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. -

UPDATE: 8:46 a.m. Thursday from news conference in Dandridge with Tennessee Highway Patrol and Jefferson County EMA.

Investigators say they're working to identify victims of a crash in Jefferson County, Tennessee on Thursday.

According to Sergeant Bill Miller with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the crash was so horrific they will need dental records to positively identified some.

In a Thursday morning news conference Miller said 14 patients remain at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He says two of those patients are critical, five are serious and seven are stable.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol also found out the bus was owned by a church in Statesville, North Carolina. They say the 18 on board were on a senior trip. Investigators have not found out who the bus driver is at this time. They tell us the bus had seat belts.

Miller says the bus had a malfunction causing it to hit a Tahoe and then a tractor trailer which ignited the fire. He tells us some people were pinned in the bus.

Now, investigators say they will determine the speed, interview witnesses and find the service records from the bus.

They tell us twenty agencies worked this scene and some bystanders also came to help out. Crews were there within five minutes.

Interstate 40 has reopened.

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UPDATE: 5:50 a.m. Thursday from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security

As of 5:15 a.m. Thursday, all lanes of Interstate 40 eastbound and westbound at mile marker 424 are now open and traffic is moving.

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UPDATE: 10:26 p.m.: From the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security

The American Red Cross has provided a contact number for individuals who may have had loved ones involved in this afternoon’s bus crash in Jefferson County (TN). Those individuals can contact 865-305-5716 for more information.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol will participate in a press conference held by the Jefferson County EMA and EMS on tomorrow at 8 a.m. on this afternoon’s crash on Interstate-40 westbound at mile marker 423 in Jefferson County.  

Troopers said the roadway could remain closed until Thursday morning.

We heard from witnesses at the scene.

"Yeah it was a loud boom," said Harold Ross. "It sounded like an explosion and I was several miles away"

A charter bus on Interstate 40, with 18 people on board, hit the back of a Sports Utility Vehicle and then collided with a tractor trailer, Tennessee Highway Patrol told us.

"I was leaving the golf course,it was 2:00, 2:30 range,and I saw 2 shoots of smoke, black smoke go up in the air," Ross said. "Then they came together. They started out separate and they came together almost instantly."

The tractor trailer erupted in flames on impact.

Tennessee Highway Patrol told us the driver, the only person on board, was killed during the crash.

Six people from the bus also died, and one person riding in the SUV.

There were three people in the SUV when it was hit.

"At the scene, it had been confirmed there are at least eight individuals who are now deceased in the crash," said Bill Miller, of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. "We hope and pray there will be no more."

14 people were rushed to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for injuries, Miller said.

Eight of those people are in critical condition, he said. Two people are seriously injured and four people are stable. 

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UPDATE 6:14 p.m.: TDOT tweeted a new detour for route I-40 westbound in Jefferson County -- you can take Exit 424 to SR 113, to SR 341, to I-81S at Exit 4.

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UPDATE 4:34 p.m.: The AP is reporting that eight people have died in the accident.

Tennessee Department of Safety public information officer Dayla Qualls released the following information:

"• Three vehicle incident involving tractor trailer, chartered bus and SUV, on I-40 westbound at mile marker 423 in Jefferson County at approximately 2 p.m. (EDT).
• Preliminary crash description: bus was traveling eastbound on Interstate 40, the left front tire blew out, bus then traveled across the median, clipped the westbound Tahoe, continued traveling and struck the tractor trailer on the left side. The tractor trailer immediately caught fire and the bus overturned.
• It appears there were 18 occupants on the bus, three occupants in the SUV and one occupant in the tractor trailer. Bus occupants are from Statesville, NC.
• Preliminary number of fatalities is eight (6 – bus; 1 – tractor trailer; 1 – SUV).
• Injured:
o Four (transported by EMS-Air to hospitals);
o Eight (transported by EMS-ground to hospitals);
o Two (not transported)

• Traffic is being rerouted on the eastbound side at the I-40, I-81 junction. On the westbound side, the traffic is being diverted at mile marker 432."

The Jefferson County EMA and EMS are currently holding a press conference. We'll bring you more details as they're available.

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The Tennessee Highway Patrol said a passenger bus has overturned in Jefferson County, completely blocking the eastbound lanes of Interstate 40.

Tennessee Safety Department spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said the accident happened near mile marker 423. Click here to view photos from the scene.

Investigators said the crash appears to involve a tractor trailer, bus, and passenger vehicle. Troopers said the preliminary investigation indicates that the bus was traveling eastbound on Interstate 40. They say for an unknown reason it traveled across the median and struck a tractor-trailer and passenger car that were traveling westbound.  

The tractor-trailer caught fire and the bus overturned. It appears there are multiple fatalities and injuries at this time.  

Traffic is being diverted on the eastbound side at the I-40, I-81 junction. On the westbound side, the traffic is being diverted at mile marker 423.

We have a crew on the way to the scene and will bring you more details as they are available.