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Focus turns to tires in investigation of bus crash

Posted September 19

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— Sometimes an accident, even a fatal one, is simply a tragic accident.

Four people died Saturday when the bus carrying the Ramah Jucco Academy football team, from Rock Hill, S.C., ran off Interstate 74 into the median guardrail and sideswiped a concrete bridge column.

A preliminary investigation by the State Highway Patrol focused on the bus' left front tire. Troopers believe it blew out, setting off the chain reaction that sent the bus swerving out of control.

The National Transportation Safety Board picked up the investigation on Monday and focused on the tires, checking everything from tire pressure to wear and tear.

"Out of nowhere, the tire popped, and the bus driver couldn't control it. He tried his best, but he just couldn't," said Raqwon Corbitt-Washington. He was among the 40 injured in the crash.

The driver, Brian Andre Kirkpatrick, 43, and Devonte Gibson, 21, Tito Hamilton, 19, and Darice Hicks, 10, died.

Kirkpatrick, a member of Sandy River Baptist Church, was driving the team on the church-owned bus. On Monday, his sister said that, although he was new to the job, he loved transporting the team.

"He was a church-going man, and he just loved helping anybody," Meiko Kirkpatrick said of her brother. "He hadn't been driving long, but anytime anybody called for him to drive, he would do it."

Federal records show the 1993 MCI motor coach had passed a required annual inspection with no red flags and was properly licensed for inter-state trips. It was bought, used, about two years ago by the church from a tour bus company.

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