The insurance company covering the Chester church that owned a bus carrying a Rock Hill football team when it crashed last year, has agreed to pay $2 million for liability and under-insured motorist coverage, according to court documents and lawyers in a civil suit filed after the crash. The crash left four dead and dozens injured.
The bus was owned by Sandy River Baptist Church in Chester, and was carrying 46 people in September 2016 when police said a tire blew and the bus crashed into a bridge. The bus had been rented by Ramah Juco Academy, a Rock Hill based football team. A lawsuit was filed by many of the riders against the church, and lawyers now say all the people on the bus or their estates will receive portions of the $2 million insurance policy from Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company.
The driver of the bus, along with two Clinton College students and an 8-year-old child died in the crash. The child was a son of one of the coaches. About two dozen of the players were students at Rock Hill’s Clinton College.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the church was at fault for renting out a bus that was not to be used for such commercial purposes, and also claim the tire that blew was at fault.
The first $1 million for liability claims from the church insurance policy has been disbursed to all but one person on the bus, lawyers said. The second $1 million, for under-insured motorist claims, will be reviewed and disbursed by Judge Lee Alford, a retired but still active circuit court judge from York County. Alford was appointed late last week as a special referee for disbursements, said David Manzi and Joel Hamilton, lawyers at Schiller & Hamilton of Rock Hill who represent 28 of the people injured.
“It is clear that the wreck was caused by the tire, and the church never should have had the bus on the road,” Hamilton said.
Manzi said the lawsuit, which seeks to find the manufacturer and dealer of the tire, remains ongoing.
“We are not giving up until we find them (the tire manufacturer and distributor),” Manzi said.
The $2 million was the full amount of the insurance policy, $1 million for liability and $1 million for under insured motorist, said J.R. Murphy, lawyer for the insurance company. There was another $50,000 in disbursement for medical expenses, Murphy said.
The insurance company has been “trying to expedite to make it easy on all these families,” Murphy said, adding that he believed the filing of the lawsuit to get the payments was “unnecessary.”
The company wants to make sure the payments are done “as fairly as possible,” Murphy said.
The crash on the way to the 2016 opening game in North Carolina caused the team to cancel its 2016 season but the 2017 season starts later this month.