Tom Walters considers it a miracle that he survived the crash of his bus earlier this year.
Walters named his motorcoach business King’s Highway because he has felt blessed since starting it in Lubbock, Texas, more than 25 years ago. The company has been the official ground transportation for the Texas Tech men’s and women’s basketball teams for five years, and for the university’s athletics program for 11 years.
On Jan. 6, 2021, he was heading to Ames, Iowa, to pick up the Texas Tech men’s basketball team that was flying into the city.
He had about 90 minutes left on his drive before stopping for the evening when he looked up and saw a vehicle way over on the shoulder.
“Just as I’m coming up to that vehicle, they swept across the road, all the way across. And it happened so fast, it just pulled me down in the median,” Walters said of the crash.
“It was a dirt crossover for emergency vehicles, and it was about, I would say 4 to 5 feet high, and I was going too fast to avoid the crossover. My only option was to hit it or go into oncoming traffic. There was just no time. And I hit that, probably doing 50 to 55 miles per hour.”
Walters was able to walk away from the crumpled bus after the crash.
His wife, Vickie Walters, became emotional when she finally saw the wreckage.
“When we came up on the spot where the bus had actually been airborne, I just started crying. I told Tom, I said, ‘I don’t know how you lived through that.’ Because of the safety of the bus, he’s alive,” she said. “Everything inside that bus went through the windshield, except Tom. I said then, ‘We’re only buying Prevosts.’”
Thanks to the safety features of his Prevost motorcoach, Walters says he was able to walk away with only minor injuries.
“There’s no explanation for me still being here other than the safety features of the bus and the Lord looking after me,” Walters said in a Prevost video about his experience. “I can’t even describe my own feelings when I went back and looked at the bus and saw how damaged it was, and I walked away.”
“I don’t know, honestly, when I get in a different brand of bus, I just don’t feel comfortable,” Walters said. “It makes me not want to drive another bus than Prevost and not finance anywhere else but Volvo Finance. They just, they’ve just bent over backward to help us. I’m almost without words to praise both of ’em.”
After the wreck, Volvo Financial Services (VFS) restructured King’s Highway’s payments in order to provide relief. He’s now working with VFS to convert the company’s entire fleet to Prevost models.
Second bus dispatched
After the crash, Walters dispatched a second bus to drive from Texas to Iowa. King’s Highway completed the trip without their client being aware of the wreck.
“Just the fact that you experienced (a) wreck like that, that affects you physically, obviously does great harm to the bus, but your first thought is, ‘How do I get to Ames, Iowa, to pick up the Texas Tech basketball team?’ That just speaks volumes about who Tom is, what King’s Highway is about as a company and we’re very fortunate to have a partner like King’s Highway,” said Kirby Hocutt, director of athletics at Texas Tech.
Walters started King’s Highway Charters & Tours as a second career after he was laid off from his longtime job in the food business because he loves to drive.
“Well, two reasons I got in the business: One is I love to drive — I love to go places — and I love people. So, yep, I love what I do. We travel pretty well all over North America, and I love traveling, I love going, but always love coming back here. It’s just a hometown,” Walters said.
Texas Tech is one of King’s Highway’s longtime customers. It’s an important relationship for both.
“King’s Highway is a great partner of Texas Tech athletics, and Tom and Vickie — they’re “Salt of the Earth” people,” said Kirby. “And there’s no one that is more reliable for Texas Tech athletics than they are.”
Walters has two coaches set aside for his Texas Tech work. Both are Prevost motorcoaches wrapped in the university’s logo and colors.
The buses are not only Walters’ pride and joy; they are loved by Texas Tech fans.
“It doesn’t matter where we are. We have people taking pictures of ’em. I had a car next to me one day going 70 miles an hour down the highway, and this guy’s wife is hanging out the window taking a picture of the bus. And I was pretty selective on who drove it or who rode in it, ‘cuz it was pretty special,” Walters said.