CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. -- Twelve players and coaches of the Ramah JuCo Football team are suing a Chester Church, accusing them of failing to maintain a bus the team chartered in a fatal crash last month near Rockingham County.
More players are expected to join the suit against Sandy River Baptist Church later this week.
"We need to be very aggressive in pursuing justice for these people and families and the only way we can do that is through the courts," said Joel Hamilton, the attorney representing the team.
Ramah Junior College was focused on football glory as they headed to their first ever game in Fayetteville; however, the team faced a devastating loss without ever stepping a foot on the field. Their charter bus blew a tire and lost control, slamming into a concrete bridge support near Hamlet, North Carolina.
Killed in the crash were driver Brian Kirkpatrick, team members Devonte Gibson and Tito Hamilton, and the 10-year-old son of one of the team's coaches, -Darice Hicks. Dozens more suffered injuries, though there's no telling when all their scars will heal.
"They are all victims in this situation, there was nothing that any of them could've done to prevent this," Hamilton declared.
However, Hamilton is not convinced the owner of the bus, Sandy River Baptist Church, did all it could to prevent something like this from happening.
"We know that the initial cause of the wreck was a blown tire, but it also appears that the bus was not properly operated or maintained-- possibly for some time prior to the wreck," he explained.
North Carolina Highway Patrol announced last week it would not pursue criminal charges against the church, but did cite if for several violations. It is not clear if it was ever meant to be a for hire vehicle.
"The church has the responsibility for maintaining the bus and responsibility for following those regulations," he said.
Team Coah Bakari Rawlinson spoke to NBC Charlotte at a memorial service for his lost team members last week. He says Rock Hill has really come through to support them, but the Sandy River Baptist Church has not.
"They haven't reached out, the only thing I've heard was just refer to insurance company and let them deal with it," he said. "I think justice should come about and the people who were behind this whole issue of misleading individuals, justice should come to them."
Calls to the church were not answered. However NBC Charlotte tracked down its pastor, Keith Taylor, to his restaurant in Chester. He said he had "No Comment."
In addition to this lawsuit, the church is still under a federal investigation by the NTSB. It could be months before their findings are released.
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