First responders say they'll never forget fatal I-74 charter bus - | WBTV Charlotte

First responders say they'll never forget fatal I-74 charter bus crash

(John Sparks | WBTV) (John Sparks | WBTV)
ROCKINGHAM, NC (WBTV) -

Members from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were in Rockingham Monday following up on a deadly bus crash that left four people dead and dozens hurt on the U.S. 74 bypass.

The NTSB was looking at the bus’s tire. Officials with the North Carolina Highway Patrol believe a blowout caused the bus to crash, but the investigation remains open.

First responders described the scene as "chaotic" and were still having trouble shaking the images of the wreck.

“It tears us up on the inside. It’s something that you never forget, these types of incidents - you don’t forget about the rest of your career,” said Hamlet Fire Chief Calvin White.

White has been a first responder for almost 40 years and said Saturday’s crash is one he will never forget.

The bus was carrying several junior college football players from Rock Hill, South Carolina to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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“A lot of them were asleep when the bus actually hit the bridge and they were awakened by the actual impact of the bus,” White said.

Bus driver Brian Andre Kirkpatrick died in the crash, along with three other victims. Kirkpatrick’s family didn’t want to talk on camera, but told WBTV driving the bus was a side job.

The hardest part for Chief White is thinking about families like the Kirkpatricks.

“For the families, peace and blessings as best they can have,” said White.

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First responders from several counties and even nearby South Carolina came to help. Passerbys also assisted, including one man in the military.

“He stopped, he still had his uniform on, I don’t remember his name, but he helped quite a bit,” White said.

State and federal investigators are still looking into several aspects of the crash.

The bus is registered to Sandy River Baptist Church in Chester, SC. When WBTV looked up the bus’s DOT number on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website, it reads, “U.S. DOT# 2445628 has no current for-hire operating authority with FMCSA.”

It is unclear whether there was ever money exchanged for the bus ride, or if it was operating privately. That will be part of the investigation, federal officials said.

RELATED: Community shaken, schools offer counseling in wake of fatal bus crash

The wreck also had a lasting impact on first responders. Chief White said there will be a counseling session for those in need Tuesday.

“This will affect this community, these first responders in our community, for the rest of their careers,” White said.

The preliminary crash report by the North Carolina Highway Patrol could be finished by the end of the week. Results from federal investigations are expected to take several weeks.

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