DRUNK DRIVERS ARE A MENNACE IN MESSY TEXAS: 13 PEOPLE KILLED, 2 INJURED IN HEAD-ON COLLISION BETWEEN A CHURCH VAN AND TRUCK
3 Dead After Pickup Truck Veers Into Church Van Full of Seniors in Texas
by Daniella Silva and Alexandra Bacallao
Thirteen people were dead and two others were injured after a pickup truck veered into a church van carrying senior citizens Wednesday afternoon in Texas, authorities said. Most likely the truck driver was drunk or fell asleep at the wheel or on drugs. Texas has the highest death rate due to vehicle accidents in the nation.
Marilee White, left, with sister Jaime White react outside the First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas on March 29. Tom Reel / The San Antonio Express-News via AP
The driver of the pickup truck survived and was airlifted to a San Antonio hospital after the crash, which occurred about 12:23 p.m. (1:23 p.m. ET) near Garner State Park in Concan, Sgt. Conrad Hein of the state Department of Public Safety told NBC News.
The agency told NBC News that the van and the Dodge pickup were the only vehicles involved. All of the dead were from the bus, including its driver, as was the other injured person, authorities said.
Conditions and identities of none of the victims were made public Wednesday night.
13 People Killed in Texas Church Van Accident 0:48
The pickup truck was traveling northbound, and the church bus was traveling southbound, officials said.
Authorities were still investigating what led to the crash on Wednesday night. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would also investigate.
First Baptist New Braunfels Church said in a statement on Facebook that a "group of our senior adults" were returning home from a three-day retreat when they were involved in the crash. The church said counselors would be on hand Thursday and asked for prayers for the church family.
Authorities investigate the scene of the deadly crash in northern Uvalde County, Texas on March 29. Pete Luna / The San Antonio Express-News via AP
Church administrator Norm Hills told NBC News that the church had very little information and was "anxiously awaiting calls from DPS."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his condolences in a statement on Twitter, saying, "We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those affected."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also tweeted a statement, saying his "prayers are with the families impacted by this tragic accident — especially for those who have lost loved ones."
This is a classic case of drunk driver colliding head-on with another vehicle in Texas. Most deadly drunk-related collisions occur in the early a.m. hours, just like this one.
Prayers will not help these folks. Only tough laws against drunk or impaired drivers will.
Texas church bus crash: 13 killed, 2 injured in collision with pickup truck
By Travis Fedschun Published March 29, 2017
At least 13 people were killed and two others injured in a head-on crash Wednesday between a church bus and pickup truck in southwest Texas, officials said.
All of the victims who died were senior adults who attended First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, including the driver.
A total of 14 senior adults were on the bus and the driver was the only person in the pickup when the vehicles collided about 12:30 p.m. on U.S. 83 outside Garner State Park in northern Uvalde County, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Conrad Hein and a church statement.
The area is about 75 miles west of San Antonio.
Hein said two other bus passengers and the pickup driver were injured and hospitalized. One of those passengers died at a San Antonio hospital late Wednesday, DPS Lt. Johnny Hernandez said. The lone surviving passenger was hospitalized in critical condition, while the truck driver was hospitalized in stable condition, he said.
Photographs and video from the scene showed heavy damage to the front drivers' sides of the small white bus and pickup truck, which are the portions of the vehicles where they appear to have collided.
The back of the bus was up on a guardrail and debris was scattered onto the grass below.
An area resident told the Uvalde Leader-News she was behind one of the vehicles involved in the crash, and had contacted law enforcement to report reckless driving. Before help arrived, she had the crash took place.
The First Baptist New Braunfels church asked for those to "please be in prayer for all involved" in a series of statements on its Facebook page.
Pastor Brad McLean addressed members of the media Wednesday night as the congregation gathered at the church for prayer and support, KABB/WOAI-TV reported
"As a church, we're waiting for some official news from authorities before we can speak to anything," McLean said.
The church needs prayer more than anything else during this time, according to McLean, and members of the church gathered to do "what church families do."
"They're coming together, they're crying together, praying together and of course there's anxiousness as to who was on the bus and what their condition is," McLean said.
"You never know what the day is going to bring," he added. "The Lord tells us that we have today, tomorrow is not promised."
The Uvalde County Sheriff's Office said that Highway 83 North is closed South of Garner State Park, and will be closed for several hours.
The Uvalde County Fire Marshals told KABB/WOAI-TV DPS and EMS units, as well as Airlife, were on the scene.
A representative from Airlife said two people were transported to University Hospital.
"We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to all those affected," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "We thank the first responders working on the scene in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy, and ask that all Texans join us in offering their thoughts and prayers.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet Wednesday night, "The NTSB is investigating today’s highway accident in Concan, Texas."
Hein said the small bus was a 2004 Turtle Top, though he did not know the specific model. Turtle Top's website features shuttle buses with capacities ranging from 17 to 51 passengers, which they bill as "a great alternative to the standard 15-passenger van."
Safety concerns have long surrounded the 15-passenger vans, also frequently used by churches and other groups, with advocates saying they can be difficult to control in an emergency.