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Church bus crash victims killed in Tenn. crash ID'd

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — After the fiery crash of a church bus in Tennessee, Daniel Morrison knew a phone call would be coming.

His parents were among a group of seniors from a North Carolina church who had eagerly awaited their big annual outing, a trip to a three-day festival in Gatlinburg, Tenn., featuring gospel singers and speakers.

But on the way back on Wednesday to Statesville, N.C., the church bus carrying the members blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and a tractor-trailer, police said.

All told, the wreck on Interstate 40 in northeastern Tennessee killed eight people, leaving the bus on its side next to the tractor-trailer, the wreckage extending across two lanes of traffic and partly into the median. Fourteen others were hurt, two of those in critical condition.

When Morrison was told about the crash, he feared the worst.

Then a pastor at Front Street Baptist Church called late at night and broke the devastating news: His parents, Randy and Barbara Morrison, both 66 and married for 50 years, were dead.

His father, who had once worked for a trucking company, and his mother, once a teacher, were now gone.

“I'm still processing it,” said Daniel Morrison, one of the couple's five children, pausing to shake his head. He said both had eagerly awaited the trip, having devoted so much to their church.

“I know the Lord has a reason for everything, but I don't know what it is yet,” he said.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol on Thursday afternoon identified seven of the eight people killed.

Six of the dead were members of the Statesville church, including Randy Morrison, who police said was driving the bus, and his wife, Barbara.

Other victims from the church were 95-year-old Cloyce Matheny, 69-year-old Brenda Smith, 62-year-old Marsha McLelland and 73-year-old John Wright. All were from Statesville except Wright, from Mocksville, N.C.

The Highway Patrol says the bus, once the tire ruptured, crossed the median into oncoming traffic. The tractor-trailer caught fire.

One person in the sport utility vehicle, Trent Roberts, 24, of Knoxville, was killed.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was killed but has not been identified.

The tight-knit group of seniors was on its annual road trip, following a tradition for members of the Young at Heart ministry to attend the Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg. The event's website described the gathering as “three days of singing, laughing and preaching” for “mature and senior believers.”

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