The driver of a pickup truck that collided with a church minibus in rural Texas, killing 13 people, apologized after the crash and acknowledged he had been texting while driving, a witness said Friday.
Jody Kuchler told The Associated Press he was driving behind the truck and had seen it moving erratically prior to the Wednesday collision on a two-lane road about 75 miles west of San Antonio,near the town of Concan. Kuchler said the truck had crossed the center line several times while he followed it.
“He kept going off the road and into oncoming traffic and he just kept doing that,” said Kuchler, who followed the truck for at least 15 minutes.
Kuchler, 55, a self-employed welder, said he and his girlfriend were driving back to their home in the nearby town of Leakey when he came across the truck.
He said he called the sheriff’s offices for both Uvalde and Real counties and told them “they needed to get him off the road before he hit somebody.”
Kuchler said he witnessed the crash, and afterward, he checked on both the bus and the truck and was able to speak with the driver of the truck, who has been identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young, of Leakey.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was texting.’ I said, ‘Son, do you know what you just did?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry,'” Kuchler recalled.
Kuchler first shared the account of what happened with the San Antonio Express-News.
The wreck occurred along a curve in the road where the speed limit is 65 mph, according to Department of Public Safety officials.
Department of Public Safety Sgt. Conrad Hein declined to comment Friday on the cause of the crash or if texting might have played a role. But officials have said the truck driver appeared to have crossed the center line.
Federal investigators would not comment on the report Friday. However, Jennifer Morrison, the investigator in charge of the team from the National Transportation Safety Board, said Friday that distracted driving will be among the issues investigated.
The First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, said its members were on the bus returning from a three-day retreat at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey, about 9 miles from the crash site.
Young remains hospitalized following the crash. Twelve people died at the scene, authorities said. Another bus passenger died at a San Antonio hospital. One of the bus passengers remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition, according to the church.
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