YORK COUNTY, Va. — Virginia State Police said that alcohol and speed were factors in a massive tractor-trailer and bus crash in York County that left three people dead and 22 others hurt.
According to Sgt. Michelle Anaya with VSP, the crash happened at 1:48 a.m. Friday on Interstate 64 Eastbound at the 241-mile marker. It took until about 11:30 a.m. for state troopers to reopen the eastbound lanes of the road.
On Friday, family members identified the people killed as 25-year-old Xzavier Raquan Evans of Norfolk, 19-year-old Montia Bouie of Chesapeake, and 21-year-old Jontae Kaalib Russell of Norfolk.
Virginia State Police sent out a news release on Sunday identifying the victims, but with slightly different spellings of the first names of the two men than those provided by the family.
Police said all three were passengers on board the bus, and that none of the passengers had been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
Based on a preliminary investigation, VSP said both the tractor-trailer and the bus were driving eastbound on I-64 and when the bus merged into the tractor-trailer's path, they crashed. The impact sent the tractor-trailer into the median, where it hit an embankment.
Anaya said the tractor-trailer's driver was taken to a hospital but is expected to be OK. The driver and 20 passengers from the bus were also hospitalized, and expected to live.
State police said alcohol and speed are factors in the crash, and that charges are expected to be placed after investigators consult with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
Meanwhile, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting a safety investigation with the cooperation of VSP.
An NTSB spokesperson said its team includes an investigator-in-charge, project manager, and investigators in highway factors, motor carrier issues, survival factors and vehicle factors as well as accident reconstruction. There are also experts from the NTSB family assistance division.
Two heartbroken families spoke with 13News Now on Friday, saying they think their loved ones were the bus passengers killed in the crash.
19-year-old Montia Bouie is a mother who leaves behind a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old baby, while Jontae Russell and Xzavier Evans are brothers.
All three were on a party bus that was coming back from Richmond, on a trip to celebrate Evans' musical dreams as a rapper.
Friends of Bouie, Evans, and Russell called their families after the crash, saying they'd seen those loved ones die by the side of the road.
Ciara Russell is the sister of Jontae Russell and Xzavier Evans. She said she didn't accept the news until a police officer showed up at her door.
"My heart just dropped because I didn't want to believe it," she said. "I still can't believe it, I can't believe it, I won't believe it. It's gonna be a while... I just can't."
Ciara described Evans as a passionate musician, who also cared deeply for his son.
As for Jontae Russell, Patricia Russell described him as a "momma's boy."
"This is just eating me apart, because I didn't just lose one son, I lost two at the same time. Ain't no coming back from that," said Patricia Russell.
When 13News Now spoke with the family, they said they'd relied mostly on eyewitness accounts. They didn't know where to go to positively identify the brothers' bodies.
"It's frustrating because what that does is give an individual a gleam of hope, that maybe we got the information wrong," said Da'Qwone Hill, a brother of Jontae Russell and Xzavier Evans.
Hill said he had just texted Evans the other day words of encouragement about his music career.
"I was excited about his future and to know that that was his last performance and it devastated not just me, but the entire family," he said.
The aunts of Bouie also told 13News Now they struggled to receive information for hours on Friday.
"We have been calling the hospitals, checking the morgues, doing anything we can to get answers, but we don't know where else to go," said Susan Clark, Bouie's aunt.
The family told 13News Now the loss of their niece is especially devastating, as they recently buried Bouie's mother.
Clark and Felecia O'Neil described the 19-year-old as an always smiling and happy person, who always enjoyed being around people and family.
Anaya said authorities will share the names of those who died once the Medical Examiner confirms them, and troopers have reached and notified families.
In the meantime, troopers are still investigating the scene, to process evidence and learn more about what happened Friday morning.
The York County Commonwealth's Attorney is processing charges for the crash. Anaya didn't say who would be charged, or what offenses they'll face.