The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it is investigating the charter bus crash that killed four people and injured 42 others Saturday afternoon in Hamlet, N.C.
The charter bus, registered to Sandy River Baptist Church in Chester, S.C., was carrying football players from the Ramah Jucco Academy football program of Rock Hill, S.C. Authorities responding to the crash said that the front left tire blew out about 2:30 p.m. as the vehicle was traveling on U.S. Highway 74. The blowout apparently caused the driver to lose control.
The bus crashed into a guardrail and the side of a concrete bridge column, killing the driver and three passengers.
The victims were identified as Brian Kirkpatrick, 43, the bus driver; Darice “Junior”Hicks, 8, of Rock Hill; Devonte Gibson, 21, of Rock Hill; and Tito Hamilton, 19, of Pahokee, Fla.
At least 42 of the 50 passengers were taken to area hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to critical.
“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,” North Carolina State Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Gordon told WNCN Durham.
Privately owned buses aren’t held to the same strict federal transportation regulations as commercial buses, but they must comply with annual inspection requirements and keep records that those inspections have been completed.
According to WNCN, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records show that the charter bus had not been inspected at all in the past two years.
NTSB investigators typically issue a preliminary report within the first couple weeks of an investigation, with a full final report within 12-18 months.