Posted: Oct 2, 2013 8:21 PM by Drew Iden - CNN
(CNN) A preliminary number of eight fatalities was reported in a three-vehicle accident on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County, Tennessee, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said. Fourteen injuries were reported.
A bus traveling east had a front-tire blowout. It crossed the grass median, clipped a vehicle and struck a tractor-trailer, officials said.
There were 18 people on the bus, which is from Statesville, North Carolina, officials said. Six people on the bus died, along with one person in an SUV and one in the tractor-trailer, officials said.
The 2 p.m. wreck occurred in Jefferson County about 40 miles east of Knoxville on Interstate 40 westbound near mile marker 423, said Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls.
The bus was traveling east on I-40 and for an unknown reason crossed the grass median, striking the westbound tractor-trailer and the passenger car, Qualls said.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center confirmed it was are treating 11 victims, according to hospital spokesperson Susan Wyatt. Four of the 11 patients were transported via helicopter.
Wyatt said the injured were from Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina. She said the group was returning home from a day trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The number of fatalities could not be confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The tractor-trailer caught fire, and the bus overturned, she said. A photo from CNN affiliate WVLT showed smoke rising from the scene and debris along the highway.
I-40 was closed, and traffic was being rerouted, according to state transportation officials. The scene was expected to be cleared by 9 p.m. ET.
The wreck occurred near the I-40 split with Interstate 81.
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