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USC fraternity was headed for party in New Orleans when tragedy struck on Gulf highway

In World
April 06, 2024

A social weekend that had been planned for months in New Orleans by a University of South Carolina fraternity turned tragic Friday when a bus carrying fraternity members and their dates crashed on an interstate in southern Mississippi.

Five to six busloads from USC’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity were on their way to the Crescent City for a fraternity formal, said John Barnhill, president of the fraternity’s local alumni board in South Carolina.

Only one of the buses crashed and early reports indicated that two people were airlifted to a hospital. Other passengers reportedly had minor injuries.

One of those on the bus that crashed was the Sigma Phi Epsilon student president, who lost his phone in the wreck, Barnhill said. Details of the crash were still emerging Friday night.

“They had chartered several buses, probably five or six buses to take them all down there,’’ Barnhill said. “This was one of the buses.’’

Barnhill said the event is an annual fraternity weekend, one of the social highlights of the year at Sigma Phi Epsilon. He said all of the people on the buses were members of the fraternity and their dates.

“This is kind of their big thing, they have this formal once a year,’’ he said. “It usually is a destination kind of thing. This was a big deal because they were going to New Orleans this time.’’’

Sigma Phi Epsilon is a national social fraternity with chapters at universities across the country. The fraternity, called “Sig Ep’’ for short, was established in 1901 in Richmond, Va. The USC chapter has more than 150 members.

“I’m certainly concerned about the injuries,’’ Barnhill said, noting that the bus company had made arrangements to transport those who were not injured to New Orleans, where members already had hotel rooms reserved that they could stay in.

The driver of the bus was ejected after a tire blew and a Carolina student took the wheel, according to reports from Mississippi. When the driver was ejected, USC student Paul Clune ran to the front of the bus and got the bus to stop, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported.

The accident near Bay St. Louis, Miss., occurred about 3:30 p.m. Central Time. Nine students were taken by ambulance to local hospitals, Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Cal Robertson told the Mississippi newspaper.

The University of South Carolina issued a statement after the crash, saying it was working with authorities.

“USC is working closely with local authorities on the scene to obtain updates on our students and to assist in whatever capacity we can,’’ the university statement said.

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