published Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Authorities say 3 dead in fatal collision

KNOXVLLE — A church van and a sport utility vehicle collided head-on Sunday on a rural road in Sevier County, killing three people, authorities said.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol says the SUV crossed the center line of the road near Seymour and struck the van, according to WATE-TV. The highway patrol and other agencies did not immediately return phone messages left Sunday by The Associated Press.

Officials said two people died at the scene. The third person, the driver of the SUV, was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where he later died. A passenger in the van was also taken to the hospital.

Investigators say there was a total of 12 passengers in the van, mostly middle and high school students from Cedar Baptist Church in Blount County who were returning from a retreat in Gatlinburg.

No identities have been released, and there were no further details on injuries.

Officials told WATE they found narcotics on the SUV driver, who was the only one in the vehicle.

Witness James Settles told The Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) that he tried unsuccessfully to free one of the victims in the accident.

Authorities said both vehicles caught fire.

The cause of the crash is being investigated.

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