Driver recounts I-95 church bus crash
Children in summer camp were heading to St. Simon's Island for retreat
The driver of a church bus carrying 32 people recounts the moments before and after the bus crashed off Interstate 95 on Friday afternoon.
The bus carrying mostly children from Arlington Baptist Church in Jacksonville was heading to St. Simon's Island when the crash happened near the Woodbine exit just after 3:30 p.m. The children were from a summer camp at the church and were heading to St. Simon's Island.
Mark Hylton said he checked the tires, treads, and brakes on the bus Thursday night.
"So we're driving along, heading northbound, everything is going fine. The bus is running real nice," said Hylton.
Hylton works as a Sunday school teacher and professional bus driver. When he began to lose control of the bus, his instincts kicked in.
"I felt a shimmy in the front and right, as I said, seconds later, the tire actually blew out," he said. "Once the tire blew, yes, it was very violent. It was shaken back and forth really hard to hold onto."
Experience told Hylton not to slam on the breaks for fear of locking up the wheels. He said he tried to steer the bus into the tree line, hoping the trees would keep the bus from flipping over.
The impact was violent, but no one onboard suffered any serious injuries. Hylton was humble about the whole experience when discussing it Sunday.
"They were, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.' The bus is destroyed. Don't be thanking me for anything," he said.
"Mark is not that type of guy. Mark is just very grateful that God guided his hands and also was watching over the children," said Robert Anderson, an assistant pastor at Arlington Baptist Church.
Hylton still feels terrible about the damage to the bus.
"I feel kind of like a ship's captain and my ship was shot out from underneath me. My crew is safe, that's the important thing. That's number one. But I did not bring the ship home," he said.
The children eventually made it to their camp on St. Simon's Island. They are expected back in Jacksonville this week.
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