Driver, 8-year-old identified as victims in fatal I-74 charter bus crash
ROCKINGHAM, NC (WBTV) - The bus driver and an 8-year-old are among the four people who died in a crash on I-74 near Rockingham, NC involving a charter bus. Dozens more were hurt.
Troopers said the Ramah Juco Academy football team from Rock Hill, SC was on board the bus. They were on their way to a game against University of God's Chosen in Raeford, NC.
Driver Brian Kirkpatrick, 21-year-old Devonte Gibson, 19-year-old Teto Hamilton and 8-year-old Darice Hicks have been identified as the four victims in the crash.
The bus struck an overpass bridge and crashed into a median near mile marker 316 in Richmond County. US-74 was closed for hours as the crash was under investigation. Lanes reopened around midnight.
Lieutenant Jeff Gordon with NC Highway Patrol said 46 people were on board the bus when it crashed. Forty-two people were taken to four area hospitals. He said extent of their injuries range from critical to minor injuries. One of those transported was reportedly not hurt.
Three of the injured people had to be flown to other hospitals for treatment to their injuries, according to Gordon.
"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," Gordon said.
Ten patients were sent to FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, two of those patients were moved to UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill. The eight remaining are in serious condition, according to a hospital representative.
Two patients from another hospital were flown to CMC in Charlotte for treatment.
As of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 22 people have been discharged from the hospital. Tyreak Thompson is one of the football players released from the hospital. He said all of his teammates attend Clinton College in Rock Hill, SC.
The last thing Thompson remembers was the bus hitting the median railing.
"I was half-asleep, then when I opened my eyes, we had hit the rail, and that's all I remember," Thompson said.
Thompson was able to walk away form the crash without any injuries, but he said he is still shaken up.
"I'm still a little traumatized about it. It's hard, and I'm fine. I feel sad for all of the other players and hope they'll be okay," Thompson said.
Nearby neighbor Bobby Davis said he was a former football player familiar with the Ramah team and its coaches. He said he got several calls about the crash Saturday and it was news he wasn't ready to hear.
"A lot of people hurt, people killed, family members, loved ones, kids, college kids which is pretty much kids you know so it's just a rough day," said Davis.
Kirkpatrick, the bus driver is from Chester, SC. Victims Devonte Gibson and Darice Hicks were from Rock Hill and and Teto Hamilton is from Pahokee, FL, according to troopers.
Gibson was a 2012 graduate of Northwestern High School in Rock Hill.
Darice Hicks was a third grader at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School in Rock Hill.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hicks family and all other families impacted by this tragedy," Mychal Frost said on behalf of Rock Hill Schools.
Thompson said he's thinking of the people on the bus who died.
"Some of us made it, some of us didn't. 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," Thompson said.
Troopers believe a blown out front tire caused the driver to lose control of the bus and crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. They are reportedly looking at tire pressure and if there were signs of tire failure.
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