Colleton bands together to help peers involved in crash

COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) - The Colleton County School District sprang to action Sunday after news spread of the fatal crash, but it is the students with the Colleton County Band of Blue who say the now have a band of friendship.

"We were just telling them that everything was going to be okay," said 16-year-old Thomas Finigan.

His father, Tom Finigan, says when he got the call from the superintendent about the crash, he immediately called band students to pitch in and help the group that was traveling back to Chillicothe, Ohio.

"When we met with most of them, they were kind of in a daze and just wanted to get their minds off of it and that's what our kids did. They just asked them what they played asked about their trip to Florida," Tom Finigan said.

The younger Finigan says this was their chance to pay it forward to the fellow band mates.

Colleton County parents also pitched in and purchased socks, underwear and clothing they could switch into since they didn't have access to their belongings.

"Several of them hugged and thanked us and cried," Thomas Finigan said. "They were very nice and very appreciative you could tell they'd been through a lot day."

Even though the Band of Blue never met the Southeastern High School Band before, Tim Finigan says they expect to have a life-long friendship.

"Band is a band no matter where you are. We have a common link. It's music," he said. "We hope the best and if it happened to us we hope someone would do the same for us too."

Southeastern's students and parents finished their journey back to Ohio on replacement buses and arrived home to applause -- while wearing shirts from the Colleton High School band that they were given.

One of the parents from Southeastern is still recovering in Colleton Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the bus, 63-year-old Michael Esber, died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash.

According to Dan Ronan with the American Bus Association, Esber was scheduled to get a relief driver to take over the trip in Columbia and only had about 75 minutes left on the road when he crashed.Ronan said Esber had been on duty for about seven hours before the crash and did not have a record of health or medical issues.Esber also had a good driving record with the Muskingum Coach company and had been with them for two years. Ronan said Esber was well liked and often requested by tour groups.

According to Colleton County Fire and Rescue officials, the coach bus was traveling north on I-95{}near mile marker 67 when the bus{}drove off the left side of the road around 4 a.m. Sunday.

The state highway patrol is still investigating the accident.