Federal transportation officials have ordered a Chester church to stop its for-hire bus operations immediately after one of its buses crashed in September, killing four people.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an order Monday telling Sandy River Baptist Church to stop its commercial activities with its buses. The order came after a Sandy River bus hired to drive members of the Ramah Juco Academy football team crashed on its way to a game in Fayetteville, killing two players, as well as an 8-year-old and the driver Brian Kirkpatrick. North Carolina Highway Patrol investigators said a front wheel failed, causing the bus to swerve and strike a median guardrail and then a concrete bridge support along U.S. 74 near Rockingham, N.C.
In its order, FMCSA noted that the church had registered as a “private passenger carrier,” but had not applied for the required “for-hire passenger carrier” status it needed in order to transport a group like Ramah Juco. The order also noted Sandy River did not follow regulations to ensure its drivers were qualified or going over the limit for hours behind the wheel, along with other violations.
“The investigation found Sandy River Baptist Church’s operations to be reckless, with almost nonexistent management supervision over its motor carrier operations or management knowledge of when its commercial motor vehicles were being operated,” the FMCSA order stated. It also noted the church does not maintain inspection reports on its buses.
The order identifies 12 steps the church would need to lift the ban, mostly dealing with putting new safety procedures in place. However, it is not clear if Sandy River had any drivers other than Kirkpatrick.
Besides the driver, the crash also killed Clinton College students Devonte Gibson and Tito Hamilton and 8-year-old Darice Hicks Jr., the son of a team coach. The Ramah Juco team was made up of junior college students from around the region.