Three Charlotte residents who escaped their native country of Myanmar for a chance to make a living in the United States were killed Friday night in a three-car collision on Interstate 77 in York County, authorities said Saturday.
The victims were among six people in a Honda Pilot that slammed into the rear of a bus shortly after 11 p.m. near the mile-90 marker in northern York County, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.
The victims were identified as Tei Paw, 40; Khai Hne, 33; and Khai Tlo, 33. Another man in the vehicle suffered serious head injuries, according to friends of the victims. The driver and a 37-year-old woman were not seriously hurt.
“These were people who were in this country legally and were working hard to make a living,” said Carla Fuller, who runs Help the Refugees, a Charlotte-based support group. “They left spouses and families, and in some cases, those families will struggle to make it.”
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The Highway Patrol said a Bluebird bus traveling in the outside lane began to merge onto the emergency lane. The 2008 Honda Pilot that was behind the bus in the outside lane attempted to merge left into a middle lane when it sideswiped a 2008 Honda Accord.
The Honda Pilot’s driver lost control of the vehicle and ran into the back of the bus. The Honda Accord driver was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, but the driver’s condition was not immediately known.
Tlo was married with a 2-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son. Paw and her husband were parents of two sons and a daughter. Hne’s wife, Rebecca, is seven months pregnant, Fuller said. He also left a 2-year-old daughter.
Rebecca Hne issued a statement through interpreters, saying she doesn’t know what she will do next. “From now on, I am so sad. I feel hopeless.” She said her husband “worked so hard because we are so poor.”
They were part of a community who left Myanmar, a Southeast Asia nation formerly known as Burma, in recent years to escape an oppressive government. The people in the Honda Pilot had been working for a temporary labor company in the Rock Hill area, friends said.
Fuller said the Hne family had arrived in the United States in March. The Tlo family had been here since 2011. It wasn’t immediately known when the Paw family arrived.
A relief fund for the victims’ families has been set up through Westminster Presbyterian Church. Donations can be sent to the church at 101 Colville Road, Charlotte, NC 28207. The words “Car Accident Relief Fund” should be in the memo field.
Those wishing to help also can contact Fuller through her website, www.helptherefugees.com.