Callers saw a pickup swerving before Texas crash
New Braunfels, Texas — Law enforcement officials from two departments say they received phone calls about a pickup driving erratically shortly before a collision between a truck and church bus in southwest Texas that killed 13 people returning from a retreat.
One man called the dispatch line just past noon Wednesday to report that a white Dodge pickup was swerving on the road, Uvalde police Lt. Daniel Rodriguez said Thursday.
“(The caller) was scared (the pickup driver) was going to cause an accident and asked us to send deputies,” Rodriguez said. “Deputies were dispatched, but before they could reach the area, the same caller called 911 to report that the truck had been in an accident.”
Dispatchers in Real County received a call from a woman who reported a truck was driving erratically on U.S. 83, county Constable Nathan Johnson said. Real County officials called Uvalde County officials to coordinate a response to send deputies. Then, the woman called back and said the truck that had been driving erratically had struck another vehicle before reaching Real County, Johnson said.
“Unfortunately, he struck a motor vehicle before anyone could respond,” he said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety refused to speculate about what caused the head-on collision between a pickup and a small church bus near the town of Concan, although one spokesman said the truck driver appeared to have crossed the center line.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators on Thursday to start looking into the crash, which occurred about 12:25 p.m. outside Garner State Park, about 75 miles west of San Antonio.
The fronts of both vehicles were heavily damaged in the collision and the bus was backed up onto a guardrail, with glass and debris scattered around.
Twelve bus passengers and driver Murray William Barrett, 67, died at the scene, DPS Lt. Johnny Hernandez said. Another bus passenger died at a San Antonio hospital. The pickup driver, Jack Dillon Young, 20, of Leakey, Texas, was in stable condition and the lone survivor from the bus remained hospitalized in critical condition late Wednesday, DPS said.
“These are individuals we’ve sat next to and had dinner with and laughed with and cried with and worshipped with,” Brad McLean, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, told reporters Thursday. “They were part of our church family.”
He added, “I think it’s the everyday interaction and relationship that has been built that, boy, those are the things that really will affect us a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.”
Ten of the people killed in the wreck were from New Braunfels, according to DPS, and they ranged in age from 61 to 87. They were part of a larger group of 65 people who attended the church retreat, with most taking their own cars for the getaway.
At a briefing near the crash site Wednesday night, DPS Sgt. Orlando Moreno said, “For reasons unknown the truck veered into the southbound lane and struck the bus head-on.” Moreno said the wreck occurred along a curve in the road where the speed limit is 65 mph.
Hernandez was more circumspect early Thursday, saying only that the collision remains under investigation.