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11 injured in crash of bus carrying church youth group

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (BP)–A tour bus carrying 40 members of a South Carolina church youth group crashed into a tree on a steep mountain road in Gatlinburg, Tenn., Jan. 20 injuring 11 people.

“That bus could have easily gone over the mountain if they hadn’t hit the tree,” said Mitch Marsh, associate pastor of the First Baptist Church, Gaston, S.C. “The Lord was really with the kids.”

Police say the driver was traveling toward downtown Gatlinburg when the bus hit a utility pole and then plowed head-on into a tree. Several students were trapped inside the bus and emergency crews had to cut them out of the wreckage.

The driver and an 18-year-old passenger were airlifted to University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. The unidentified college freshman fractured a vertebrae. Nine other members of the church group were treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital.

Marsh said the youth group was in Gatlinburg for an interdenominational youth rally.

“We were in the middle of choir rehearsal when we received the news,” Marsh said. “We started calling parents and making sure everyone knew what was happening.”

Marsh said the church congregation responded with support for the injured students.

“The youth leaders always carry medical release forms and emergency numbers wherever they go,” Marsh said. “And just in case you have an emergency, you are prepared. Fortunately, they were prepared.”

Marsh said the youth group returned to the church on the afternoon of Jan. 21.

No charges have been filed and the accident remains under investigation, police said.

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