UPDATE: All bus crash victims now home in South Carolina - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: All bus crash victims now home in South Carolina

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Pastor Kenneth Catoe tells Channel 3 that the last passenger of the crashed church bus was discharged from Skyridge on Saturday. 

All of the bus occupants  have returned home to Barnwell, SC. 

Catoe says everyone doing well. Despite a few broken bones, no one will require surgery. 

He also added his thanks to the Cleveland community for caring for the members of his congregation.


PREVIOUS STORY: It's been a long day for 16 kids and the driver involved in a church bus crash in Cleveland.

But now, they're headed back home to South Carolina.

Seconds after the crash happened, good Samaritans pitched in to help rendering aid, calling families and consoling children.

Kenneth Catoe is the Senior Minister for Hagood Avenue Baptist Church in Barnwell, South Carolina. He says the blessing in this situation is that everyone in this group is going home together.

“We're okay physically. I think everyone's emotions are a little weird right now, but physically we're going to be okay,” Catoe said.

First Baptist Church of Cleveland opened its arms to crash victims as they waited for another bus to make them home. Members also offered support through prayer.

“What we prayed for a minute ago was that all the scars that come from the stitches are beautiful and that the bones heal straighter than they did before,” Steve Morgan with First Baptist Church of Cleveland said.

Friday morning, these groups were strangers to each other. But through this experience they are now forever friends.

“They said, now we've got somewhere to go to church and we know somebody and we'll see you next year.” Morgan added.


PREVIOUS STORY: Channel 3 spoke with the pastor, who was traveling with the kids from South Carolina.

All but one of them have been released from the hospital.  

Pastor Kenneth Catoe says everyone on board the bus was shaken by the crash, but luckily no one was seriously injured.  

Kenneth Catoe learned about the crash, involving 17 of his church members, through a phone call.

"We were just getting ready to check out of the hotel when I got a phone call that the bus had run into a ditch," said Kenneth Catoe, Pastor.

The group was headed home after a week-long mission trip.

Catoe rushed to the scene. All 17 people on board, an adult driver and 16 kids between ages 7 and 17 were on board.

"Your heart sinks because you see your flock hurting," said Catoe.

The group from Hagood Avenue Baptist Church in Barnwell, South Carolina travels to Cleveland every year to do mission work.

"Painting, roof repair, we build ramps," said Catoe.

This was the 13th trip to Cleveland. Unfortunately, this one ended with scary moments.

Pastor Catoe credits the driver, a parent of one of the younger passengers  and God to protecting all 17 people on board.

"The guy who is driving the van, the bus, he's been playing the character of Jesus in our local passion play for about twelve years, so I told one of our guys, "how bad can it be when Jesus is driving the vehicle".

Catoe says he wants to thank the city of Cleveland for the hospitality and care following the crash.  

"This community is awesome, don't take it for granted, this community is amazing," said Catoe.

One of the 17 kids on the bus is still at Skyridge and will stay overnight.

The rest of the group is getting ready to board a bus back to South Carolina. Pastor Catoe says he welcomes prayers for the group as they head home.


PREVIOUS STORY: As the passengers are released, those passengers were brought to First Baptist of Cleveland, where they are waiting for their ride home to South Carolina.  

Channel 3 spoke with the Associate Pastor of Recreation Administration in Cleveland and he said when he realized the bus was carrying members from their sister church in South Carolina, he quickly started mobilizing church staff.

They worked with Cleveland City Schools to get a bus over to Skyridge to help transport the teens to First Baptist.

 "I was always told and always taught to believe ministry is people, no matter if it's people from other churches, or people in our community that have a need and are hurting, that is what people that make up the church is all about," said Rusty Asble, Associate Pastor.

Again, we're told all 17 people on board that church bus are going to be okay.

A bus from Barnwell, South Carolina, where the group is from, is expected to arrive shortly to take them home.  


PREVIOUS STORY: Seventeen people were treated at Skyridge Medical Center after they were injured in a bus crash.16 juveniles from Barnwell, South Carolina were on the bus. The group was in town for a week-long mission trip.

The bus was heading north on Freewill Road when it veered off the road and collided with a drain culvert.

All 17 were transported to the hospital. The crash happened around 8:30 Friday morning.  

The church bus was just starting its 6 hour drive back to Hagood Avenue Baptist Church.  

Police say the driver of the South Carolina church bus was heading down Freewill Road when he drove off the shoulder and lost control. 

The bus flipped on its side and crashed into a culvert at an intersection.

"I saw a teenage boy get out, he had blood all over his face and he was pulling kids out, they were all screaming for help," said Summer Smith, Neighbor.

Summer smith lives at the intersection where the crash happened. When she heard the crash she ran outside to help.

But first, the passengers had to be rescued through a side window.

"Firemen were pulling the passengers out over their heads onto the grass here," said Evie West, Cleveland Police Department.

"They were all very very shook up after it happened," said Smith.

Police say the passengers ages ranged from 7 to 17, the bus driver is related to one of the teens on board.

Everyone on board was taken to the hospital to be evaluated and treated.

"They just kept asking us if they were going to be okay, and if some of their leaders who you could see were obviously hurt, asked if they were going to be okay, and we just held them and told them it was all going to be alright," said Smith.

Everyone walked away with minor injuries, mostly cuts and bruises. One passenger has a broken arm.

A scary ending to what was a week of mission work. The group was headed back home to Barnwell, South Carolina after a week-long mission trip.  

"We sat and called their moms, and a lot of them couldn't talk so we sat and talked to their parents on the phone so it was just very scary for them to not have that parent there for comfort," Smith.


PREVIOUS STORY: Cleveland police say 16 juvenile passengers and the driver of a small church bus from South Carolina were taken to Skyridge Medical Center after a crash Friday morning.

Six of the passengers are being treated and 11 passengers will be evaluated. 

All 17 were transported to Skyridge Medical Center by paramedics, personal vehicles and a SETHRA bus.The bus was heading north on Freewill Road when it veered off the road and collided with a drain culvert. Traffic investigators say the driver was not familiar with the road and there is no shoulder in that area.

As the passengers are being released from the hospital, they are being taken to First Baptist Church in Cleveland.

The group is from Barnwell, SC and part of the Hagood Avenue Baptist Church congregation. They were staying in Cleveland at Ocoee Outreach for a week-long mission trip. The juveniles range in age from 11 to 17, according to officials.

Officials tell Channel 3 a bus from South Carolina will be on its way to Cleveland to help get the teens home. 

Stay with Channel 3 for more on this developing story. 

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