Four people were killed and dozens more sustained injuries on Saturday afternoon when a charter bus transporting a South Carolina junior college football team slammed into a highway median and crashed in Rockingham, North Carolina. The Rockingham bus accident was reported at around 2:36 p.m. on Interstate 74 near mile marker 316.
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the 1993 MCI charter bus was eastbound on I-74 when the left front tire failed, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. That’s when the charter bus slammed into a guard rail and overpass column at mile marker 316.
Images of the Rockingham bus accident show the vehicle stopped near the center divider with serious damage. The area where the driver sits was ripped open and part of the vehicle’s roof was sheared off in the accident.
“I’ve been doing this job for 23 years now. I’ve seen my share, and this is one of the worst, especially when you have a group of students, young people just starting their lives, going to a football game,” said Lt. Jeff Gordon of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
The charter bus was transporting the Ramah Juco Academy football team to play a game against University of God’s Chosen in Fayetteville. Both teams are made up of junior college players who want to play football, but attend schools that don’t have football programs. All of the Ramah Juco players attend Clinton College in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Victims of Rockingham Bus Accident Identified
Forty-six people were aboard the bus at the time of the crash. Of those onboard, four were killed, including bus driver Brian Kirkpatrick of Chester, South Carolina; eight year-old Darice Hicks of Rock Hill, South Carolina, 19-year-old Teto Hamilton of Pahokee, Florida and 21-year-old Devonte Gibson, also from Rock Hill.
Eight-year-old Darice Hicks, a third grader at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School, was described by friends and loved ones as a talented young football player with a bright future. He was traveling with his father, Lamont Hicks, who is affiliated with the Ramah football team.
Devonte Gibson and Teto Hamilton were both students at Clinton College. Gibson graduated from Northwestern High School in Rock Hill in 2012.
Forty-two people were taken to area hospitals to treat varying injuries ranging from minor to critical. Three of the injured were airlifted to other hospitals for treatment.
Tyreak Thompson was one of the football players on the bus. Released from the hospital on Saturday, Mr. Thompson told WYFF that he recalled being half asleep, then when he opened his eyes, realized that the bus had hit the median. He was able to walk away from the accident without major injuries, but says he remains traumatized by the Rockingham bus accident.
“Some of us made it, some of us didn’t,” said Thompson. “Hopefully we get through it. Thank God some of us see another day, and I just pray for the families going through hard times right now.”
Clinton College announced over the weekend that it would be cancelling Monday classes and that counseling would be available for students at that time.
Rockingham Bus Accident Investigation
While the cause of the Rockingham bus accident remains under the investigation of law enforcement, investigators will be focusing their energy on examining the tires and the bus’s maintenance history, as well as the actions of the bus driver. An investigation into the Rockingham bus accident will likely take months to complete, though officials are expected to release a preliminary report in the next couple of weeks.
Tire failures are not uncommon in bus accidents. In 2013, eight people were killed and over a dozen sustained injuries when a bus transporting congregants of a North Carolina church suffered a tire failure which led to a collision with an SUV and a tractor trailer in Tennessee. Much like the Rockingham bus accident, the 2013 crash in Tennessee involved a front left tire failure, which caused the bus driver to lose control of the vehicle.
A year later, some of the crash victims filed a personal injury lawsuit against the tire manufacturer, Hankook Tires, claiming the tire that failed was negligently and defectively designed and manufactured.
Bus Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been harmed in a bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation. It is in your best interest to speak with an experienced bus accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your claim.
The bus accident law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has handled over 90 bus accident cases since 1988, securing justice on behalf of our clients. Our firm has litigated against Greyhound, Ford Motor Company, Bluebird, American Stage Lines, Sky Express Inc., American Tour and Leasing Co., and Windsor Inc. among many others.
To speak with a bus accident lawyer about your case, give us a call at 800-827-0087 or contact us here.
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