DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — A bus taking a church group home to North Carolina blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and a semitrailer truck Wednesday in a fiery wreck that killed eight people, authorities said.
Fourteen other people were hurt in the accident in northeastern Tennessee, including two who were in critical condition. The bus was carrying members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., about 140 miles east of the crash site.
The group of seniors, known as Young at Heart, had been to the 17th annual Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg, Tenn., a three-day event featuring gospel singers and speakers.
Inside the Statesville church, people cried and hugged each other. One woman whispered "It's going to be all right" while hugging another woman. A service was scheduled for Wednesday night.
George Stadfeld, who has been a member of the church for eight years, said he knew everyone on the bus. "We're all shaken," he said. "As bad as it is, they're all Christians and I know where they're at. I'll join them later."
Authorities said the bus crossed the median about 2 p.m., clipped the oncoming SUV and slammed into the semitrailer truck, which burst into flames. Several hours after the crash, clouds of smoke still rose from the semitrailer truck, and tree branches that lined the highway were charred.
State Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in an email that 18 people were on the bus and six of them were killed. One of the three people in the SUV was killed and the semitrailer truck driver also died.
None of the victims had been identified.