The small white bus carrying 14 churchgoers was leaving a retreat when a 2007 Dodge Ram pickup slammed into their vehicle, killing nearly all of them last March in Uvalde, Texas, authorities said.
Jack Young, then 20, was behind the wheel of the truck that crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 83 and collided with the Ford bus full of members of First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, authorities said, KSAT reported.
Thirteen people on the bus died from injuries suffered in the crash, an affidavit said. The 14th person and Young were taken to a San Antonio hospital.
Authorities alleged that Young had been intoxicated at the time of the collision. Court records said he took prescription pills before the crash — generic forms of Ambien and Lexapro, and Clonazepam pills, which he admitted made him sleepy, the affidavit said.
Police say marijuana cigarettes were found in the truck, KSAT reported.
Witnesses had reported an erratic driver on the highway before the crash, according to court records. One 911 caller said “he’s all over the road both sides. “He’s going to hit somebody head-on, or he’s going to kill his own damn self,” The Washington Post reported.
Young, 21, would have stood trial on intoxication manslaughter charges for the people who died, as well as assault charges for the one other person who lived, the Express-News reported.
Now he could go to prison for more than 200 years after pleading no contest Thursday to the charges, FOX 29 reported. Young’s lawyer said they determined the plea was the best move after reviewing the evidence, Spectrum News reported. He faces at least two years behind bars when he’s sentenced in November, FOX 29 said.
The deadly crash came a few hours after the end of what had been a joyous retreat for First Baptist Church members, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Ruth Pharis told the newspaper after the crash that attendees “were up there for three days” and had a “wonderful time."
Pharis had left the retreat in a separate vehicle with her husband, and she didn’t know about the crash until a friend asked her about it, the newspaper reported.
“It’s just hard to know that you were singing with them that morning and they’re in heaven tonight, you know," she said. "It just hits you so hard. You can’t comprehend that many people gone at one time.”