The following account is derived from various recent online news reports: On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, around noon, 14 members of the First Baptist New Braunfels, Texas church were homebound from a three-day retreat at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey. They were traveling in a white mini-bus, southbound on Highway 83 through Real County—Texas Hill country, about 75 miles west of San Antonio. Meanwhile, the northbound lane of Highway 83 was the subject of numerous phone calls to the local 911 dispatcher concerning a white pickup truck.
The first call was made by a motorist who reported seeing the pickup truck driver operating his truck in an “erratic” way. When a second call to the same effect came in, Real County officers were already out looking for the truck. When the third call came in the police had still not located it. Then at about 12:30 pm a fourth call came in, but this time the report had changed: a head-on crash between the truck and a minibus—the minibus described above—outside Garner State Park in northern Uvalde County.
The crash was catastrophic. Photographs and video from the scene showed heavy damage to the front drivers’ sides of both vehicles. The bus driver, 67-year-old Murray William Barrett and 12 of his passengers died at the scene. A 13th victim died later at a San Antonio hospital. The one passenger who survived is reportedly in critical condition. The truck driver, 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young, was hospitalized locally in “stable condition.”
Crashes with multiple victims like this one often receive national or even international media attention. But other aspects of this crash have also made it newsworthy. Eight of the victims were in their 80s— it is a reminder of the supra-vulnerability of seniors in road crashes. It echoes the ongoing debate about the crashworthiness of multi-passenger vehicles and, if seatbelts are available, that usage is often less than optimal.
Highway speed limits —in this case, 65 mph on a curving section of a two-lane highway—are always a consideration, although excessive speeding, at least on the part of the minibus has not been reported as a factor.
But perhaps the most significant aspect of this story, the mythic proportions of its seemingly fated unfolding is underscored by a witness having caught most of the lead-up on video-cam posted online.
Jody Kuchler, the video-cammer, reportedly told The Associated Press days after the crash that he was driving behind the truck and had seen it being driven erratically prior to the collision. Moments after the collision, Kuchler says he spoke with the driver as he was pinned in his truck saying, “Son, do you know what you just did?” He says Young repeatedly apologized, acknowledging he had been texting while driving. Nevertheless, the latest official reports from the Department of Public Safety continue to say Young is believed to have swerved into the southbound lane “for reasons unknown.”
Pastor Brad McLean of The First Baptist New Braunfels church was quoted as saying, “You never know what the day is going to bring. The Lord tells us that we have today, tomorrow is not promised.”