ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A tire failure caused a charter bus crash that killed four people and injured dozens from a South Carolina football squad and closed US 74/I-74 in Richmond County on Saturday, according to officials and media reports.
The crash happened around 2:35 p.m. near N.C. 177, which is exit 316, according to Lt. Jeff Gordon of the N.C. State Highway Patrol.
CBS North Carolina confirmed that 4 people died in the wreck while 42 people were taken to various hospitals. The crash happened when the driver’s side front tire on the bus failed in a blowout, the N.C. State Highway Patrol told CBS North Carolina.
The charter bus was carrying a group of college students from the Rock Hill, S.C. area who were playing for a football team called Ramah Juco Academy, according to Jim Terry, who works recruiting players for an opposing team called University of God’s Chosen in Raeford.
University of God’s Chosen was set to play the Ramah team on Saturday afternoon at Lake Rim Park in Fayetteville, Terry told CBS North Carolina. Both teams are made up of junior or community college students who wish to play football, but don’t attend a school that has a team.
Many of the players on the Ramah team are from Clinton College in Rock Hill, S.C., according to Lt. Gordon.
Gordon also said that family members and fans were in vehicles behind the wreck and saw the bus crash into an overpass column.
Photos of the crash scene showed a large bus that was damaged heavily on the driver’s side, which part of the side ripped open.
Ellen Cooper with FirstHealth Hospital told the Richmond County Daily Journal that 8 patients from the bus wreck were in serious condition at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. Two others were airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, officials told CBS North Carolina.
Photos from WECT showed heavy damage to the driver’s side of the bus and efforts to remove an injured person on a stretcher from the bus.
Ramah Jucco Academy’s website says their program is new and that “we require that Ramah student athletes attend one of the local community colleges in the area.”
As of 11:30 p.m., the crash scene was still active and the NC DOT said the area would not clear until about 1 a.m. Sunday.