Seniors lost in Tenn. bus crash described as "pillars" of their church

Members of the Front Street Baptist Church
CBS News

John Holland was the first paramedic on the scene of the deadly crash in Tennessee on Wednesday that killed eight members of a tight-knit church group.

"When we first pulled up, you had a lot of fire, a lot of smoke, of course the bus on its side with debris scattered everywhere," Holland said. "You had people in the median, you had people in the road, still had people in the bus," he said.

The church bus CBS News

Police say the bus blew a tire and crossed the median, where clipped an SUV and smashed into a tractor trailer. Six of eight killed were on the bus. The driver of the truck and a passenger in the SUV also died.

"Most of the time when you come up on a scene like that, the people are yelling, screaming, hollering 'Help me,'" Holland said. "Not one of them was screaming. The majority of them was, 'Go help somebody else.'"

They were all members of the same North Carolina church, returning home from a three-day revival in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Pastor Tim Stutts said the seniors were known as the Young at Heart.

Members of the Front Street Baptist Church CBS News

"They are pillars in our church, pillars in our community," he said. "Our church will not be the same from this point forward because we have lost some terrific people."

Randolph Morrison was driving the bus with his wife, Barbara, on board. His son Ronnie lost them both.

"Daddy's been doing it all his life," Morrison said. "Never worried for himself, I'm sure. It was always other people."

Investigators are examining the bus service records as well as the driver's qualifications.

Emergency workers respond to a crash involving a passenger bus, a tractor-trailer and an SUV near Dandridge, Tenn., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. Authorities said the bus, carrying members of a North Carolina church group, veered across the highway median and crashed into the other vehicles in a fiery wreck that killed eight people. Paul Efird,AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel
  • Michelle Miller
    Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.