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Accused driver in fatal church bus crash sentenced to 55 years

Jack Dillon Young is escorted into the Uvalde County Courthouse on Thursday, November 8, 2018. (Photo: SBG)

UPDATE: Jack Dillon Young has been sentenced to 55 years.

The judge gave an affirmative finding on the truck Young was driving was used as a deadly weapon.

That means Young will have to serve half his sentence before he's eligible for parole.

After the sentencing, relatives of the crash victims could be seen talking to Young and embracing him.

“We shared our love for him as a brother in Christ,” said Dawn Tysdal-Jean, her mother Sue Ellen Tysdal was killed in the crash. “We told him that we loved him and forgave him and we do we mean that from the bottom of our hearts.”

“Before I walked out of there I gave him a hug and I told him, ‘You do well in there. You can be out of there before those 55 years and you can have a productive life,’” said Peggy Grantham, her 84-year old mother Addie Schmeltekopf was killed in the crash.

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A distraught Jack Dillon Young took the stand on Friday to apologize to the families of 13 people who died in a deadly church bus crash more than a year and a half ago.

"I can't put into words how sorry I am," he said. "I wish there was something I should say, anything. I wish that it could've been me. They didn't deserve it."

Young was the last to testify during a sentencing hearing in Uvalde County. He is accused of slamming head-on into a medium-sized bus, killing 13 church members onboard. Only one passenger, sitting furthest from the point of impact, survived.

"I wish every day that it was me," he said on Friday. "It should not have been them. If I could, I would in a heartbeat. I wish I could describe to y'all how much I'm sorry, but I can't. Nothing will ever do it justice. I'm sorry for what I took from y'all."

He spoke about past suicide attempts and said he was a victim of rape, but did not specify when it happened.

Young was found to be impaired after the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board stated a mix of marijuana and the prescription drug Clonazepam likely enhanced the impairing effect of the other.

"I think about it every single day," testified Young. "Somehow, I didn't realize I was driving."

Earlier in the day, Young's father testified his son asked him to kill him after the devastating crash. His mother and an older sister also spoke on his behalf, each apologizing to the families of the victims.

During her testimony, mom Lorrie Davis admitted she was not in her son's life due to alcohol and drug abuse.

"As a parent I failed my son," Davis said. "I wasn't there when I should've been."

Chelsea also defended her brother, adding that her parents gave both her and her brother drugs when they were little.

"It would take too long to go into every single detail of what they did to us," Chelsea said.

"They were not good parents. I don't have any good memories. My brother is paying the price for what they showed us," she added.

On Thursday, the lone survivor of the crash, Rose Mary Harris, testified. She said she wanted to drive her own car to the retreat but testified another member of the church convinced her to take the bus.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found Young was drug-impaired at the time of the crash. He faces up to 270 years in prison on intoxication manslaughter charges.

Closing arguments in the sentencing hearing begin Friday afternoon.

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