ROCKINGHAM, NC (WJZY) - The North Carolina State Highway Patrol has identified four people killed in a motor bus crash that injured more than 40 people Saturday near the city of Hamlet.
Troopers said the driver, Brain Andre Kirkpatrick, 43, of Chester, NC, and occupants Devonte Gibson, 21, of Rock Hill, SC, Teto Hamilton, 19, of Pahokee, FL, and Darice Hicks, 8, of Rock Hill, SC, died in Saturday's crash.
Darice Hicks has been identified as a third grader at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School in Rock Hill. Rock Hill Schools released this statement to FOX 46 Charlotte:
"It is with sadness that we let you know that 8-year-old Darice Hicks, a died in the charter bus wreck on Saturday afternoon near Hamlet, NC on Highway 74. Darice was in third grade at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School in Rock Hill Schools. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hicks family and all other families impacted by this tragedy."
Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School Principal, Chris Beard, made the following statement:
"Although Darice Hicks was a student at Ebenezer Avenue for a brief time, he left a lasting impact on his teacher, classmates, and our school body. His humor, thinking "out of the box," and his bright smile will provide memories that will encourage each of us in the days ahead. His presence made his classroom a brighter place, and he will be missed tremendously. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, sister, and other family members during this tragic time.” - Chris Beard
The crash occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday, September 17 on U.S. Highway 74.
According to a preliminary investigation, a 1993 MCI motor coach bus was traveling east on US74 by-pass when the front left tire blew, causing the vehicle to traveling out of control into the median. The vehicle then struck the median guardrail before sideswiping a concrete bridge column.
Troopers said it then continued a short distance before coming to a final rest.
Two federal investigators plan to travel to North Carolina to check the tires on the bus. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Christopher O'Neil said in a statement that the agency hasn't decided whether a full investigation is needed into the wreck.
Forty-two other occupants were transported to Sandhills Regional Medical Center, First Health Richmond Regional Medical Center, First Health Moore Regional Medical Center and Scotland Memorial Hospital with various injuries. Authorities said injuries ranged from critical to minor in nature.
At the time of the collision, the occupants were traveling from Rock Hill, S.C. to Fayetteville, N.C. to participate in a scheduled football game later that evening at the University of God’s Chosen. The players on the bus were from several colleges in the greater Rock Hill, South Carolina area.
Ramah Juco Academy's Football Coach Bakari Rawlinson confirmed to FOX 46 Charlotte Gibson and Hamilton were two of his players, and 8-year-old Darice Hicks was his little cousin.
Rawlinson said will take four to six weeks for everyone to recover from their injuries, and as a result they're shutting down their football season.
According to Rawilinson, he was joking with the bus driver about the Redskins/Cowboys when the tire blew, ultimately leading to the deadly crash. He said Gibson went flying out of the bus, the driver went through the window, and that he was about to go through the window too but somebody hit his legs and kept him in.
Rawilinson told FOX 46 Charlotte they will be accepting donations for funeral expenses sent to P.O. Box 12144 in Rock Hill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.