CARY, N.C. — Three days after a bus crash killed a teammate, two local soccer players were back home and back on the field Wednesday.
Chris Curfman and Matt Thompson, teammates at Lufkin Middle School, were part of an all-star team from North Carolina that was in Sunday's bus crash in Paris. A goalkeeper from Jacksonville died in the crash, and three other team members remained in a French hospital on Wednesday.
The team was on its way home after a 10-day European tour, and the charter bus was just 10 minutes from the airport when it skidded off the road and flipped into a ditch.
"I was just praying to God that that he'd spare my life, and I can live and not be injured," Curfman said.
"Actually, as we were flipping, I jumped up and grabbed the baggage rail and hung onto that."
That quick thinking may have saved his life. Curfman suffered a bruised shoulder.
When Curfman and Thompson found out Lufkin's game against West Lake Middle School had been postponed to Wednesday because of rain, they were eager to play.
"Right away, we knew he wanted to play," said Curfman's father, Greg. "And then he talked to his coach, and his coach said he's healthy and could play. Chris was pretty excited."
Said Chris: "It felt good to get back out here."
Greg Curfman said the level of detail his son remembered about the crash was "amazing.
"I think he was just reacting to everything that was swirling around him," the elder Curfman said. "He told us about the bus flipping, about how the bus siding actually ground off as it slid across the cement. In my mind, it was pretty amazing that so many of the players did not get injured worse than they did."
Sunday's tragedy made Wednesday's game more special than usual for Chris Curfman and Thompson. West Lake won the game, 1-0, but the real victory was the two teammates getting their lives back to normal.
"I think it takes some of the 'what-ifs' out of his mind," Greg Curfman said of his son.
"This keeps him busy. This is something he likes, and I think it takes his mind off of it, so he can heal quicker and in an actual fashion."