Survivor recounts deadly church bus crash: 'This has to be a nightmare'

NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. — The survivor of a deadly church bus crash in South Fulton County is preparing to return home to Alabama.

Austin McBride was on a bus with the Mt. Zion Baptist Church youth group traveling from Huntsville, Alabama, to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Thursday when their bus flipped over.

McBride was a chaperone for the youth group's planned mission trip to Africa. He is staying with family in Covington while he recovers from cuts and bruises he sustained in the crash.

He said one minute he and his girlfriend were watching Netflix, and the next minute he felt the bus begin to sway.

“At first I was just thinking, ‘Don’t break my neck. Don’t break my neck. Don’t break Emily’s neck. This has to be a dream. This has to be a nightmare,” McBride said.

He said he closed his eyes and braced for impact.

“I just shut my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was on the ground. There was smoke. The bus was in a wreck,” he said.

McBride said he got up and started pulling people out of the bus.

“There was one student. He was bleeding. I had to take my sock off and wrap up his leg to keep him from bleeding too much,” he said.

Twenty-one people were injured, and 17-year-old Sarah Harmening was killed in the crash.

Three of those injured are still recovering at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Harmening’s funeral is Monday.

Fulton County chaplain Warren Henry opened his church and helped some of the injured passengers and their families.

“Everyone looked at me. Everyone smiled at me. I touched everyone, talked to them,” Warren said.

He said the badly injured could be released from the hospital as early as Monday.

McBride said he is trusting in God through this difficult time.

“While this is a huge tragedy, and the loss of Sarah is awful and heartbreaking, we have to be OK knowing that God’s will is beyond our understanding,” McBride said.