A group of Alabama college students who are part of a renowned choir and who escaped Friday night's five-vehicle collision on 101 all performed as planned on Sunday in San Francisco.
18 members of The Aeolians choir from Oakwood University in Huntsville performed at SF's Third Baptist Church, both at the Sunday morning service and at an evening concert. As the church's minister of music, Rev. James Smith, tells KPIX, "They sing with such passion and spirit… you feel their voices go through your soul." Smith has invited the choir to the church before, and an advertisement for the event says The Aeolians are "back by popular demand."
But all the choir members say they nearly lost their lives when the tour bus ferrying them from SFO late Friday night went up in flames following the multi-vehicle collision on Highway 101 in South San Francisco. The ordeal began with their bus striking a car in front of it after cars on the freeway were swerving to avoid a stalled car on the center divide, as KPIX reported. A Lincoln Navigator then crashed violently into the rear of the bus, killing the driver of the SUV and sending choir members "flying." The bus then burst into flames.
Chad Lupoe, the choir's first tenor, tells the station that everyone started shouting, "We gotta get off!" as smoke began filling the bus. The entire bus ended up burning following an explosion, along with the students' belongings and clothing. But all the choir members, the choir director, and two staff members escaped safely.
As ABC 7 reports, the crash happened around 12:45 a.m. Saturday near the Sierra Point Parkway exit on 101, as the choir was on its way to a hotel in Union Square.
News of the crash prompted several alumni from Oakwood to drive up from Southern California to greet the group at Third Baptist Church. The news also prompted a Berkeley couple (one of them a former choir member) to step in and purchase 12 suits as well as shoes and socks for the choir members, as ABC 7 reports.
Lupoe tells ABC 7, "We feel blessed to still be here. I'm in pain and my neck is a little stiff now."
In addition to performing at Third Baptist Church, the choir also performed over the weekend at Philadelphian Seventh Day Adventist church in San Francisco.
Those who want to donate to the choir's relief fund can do so here.