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First responders remember deadly Jefferson County church bus crash five years later

Church buses and vans remain among the most unregulated vehicles on the road five years after a crash that killed eight people on I-40 in Jefferson County.

JEFFERSON COUNTY — It's been five years since eight people died in a horrific church bus crash that was burned into the memory of first responders in Jefferson County.

On Oct. 2, 2013, a North Carolina church bus carrying members of a senior adult group crashed at the Interstate 40 and Interstate 81 split on their way home from a Christian conference in Gatlinburg.

Six church members on the bus were killed. They were part of Front Street's Young at Heart group for senior citizens ranging in age from 62 to 95.

Two other people died when the bus struck a sport-utility vehicle and a tractor-trailer.

Those killed on the bus include Cloyce Matheny, John Wright, Brenda Smith, Marsha Mclelland, Barbara Morrison and her husband who was also the bus driver Randy Morrison.

The tractor-trailer driver struck by the bus, Mose Farmer, was killed. Trent Roberts, a rear-seat passenger in the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, was also killed. Another passenger and the driver of the SUV were injured. They are all from Knoxville.

An investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol found the left front tire of the bus failed. When the tire failed, the bus crossed the median of I-40 and collided head-on with a tractor trailer and an SUV. Investigators said the driver could not have saved the vehicle after the tire blew.

RELATED (4/28/14): THP blames deadly I-40 crash on church bus tire failure

A lawsuit with the tire company was settled early this year.

However, church vehicles are still among the least regulated on the road. THP inspects school buses and rented coaches, but told 10News it doesn't regulate church vehicles.

Neither does the federal government, unless the vehicle crosses state lines or charges fees.

"This was truly just a tragic crash that took eight lives and injured many others," said Col. Tracy Trott with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. "It's one of those incidents that impact the victims and all the first responders for years to come."

Tuesday, five years after the crash, that sentence rings true for Deputy Chief Steve Williams of the Dandridge Fire Department. He was one of the first responders on scene.

"When you start thinking about it, you start looking back and you start remembering what it looked like when you arrived on scene, and things you had to do, and things that you saw other people do, everything sort of comes back to you," he said. "It's above and beyond anything I've ever seen before that."

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