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Church Bus Flips Over, Hits Tree; 1 Dies, 29 Hurt

June 27, 1987|United Press International

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. — A church bus carrying 28 teen-agers and two adults on a mountain outing went out of control on a winding highway and crashed Friday, killing a 14-year-old girl and injuring everyone else aboard, officials said.

Many passengers were trapped in the bus before rescue workers using the "jaws of life" tools and tow trucks tore off the roof to get them out, authorities said.

The dead girl was identified as Angela Jones of Winter Haven, Fla.

Georgia State Trooper Freddie Chapman said that 28 teen-agers and two adults were on the bus when the driver, the Rev. Frank Brooks, lost control. Chapman said that investigators had not yet determined what caused the accident.

"There are skid marks before a ditch. He (Brooks) swerved into the ditch . . . maybe 200 feet," Chapman said. "He then crossed the highway and struck a guardrail on the right side of the highway, at which time the bus turned over and skidded about 75 feet. The bus hit a tree, and three people were thrown from the bus."

Brooks was listed in critical condition Friday night at Kennestone Hospital in Atlanta.

The bus, from the First Baptist Church of Winter Haven, was heading for the Toccoa River near Blairsville so the teen-agers could go rafting, said the Rev. Hugh Kirby, youth minister at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga.

Kirby said that the teen-agers had been attending "Life Week" at a youth camp sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Assembly.

"They were going to relax today and go to Toccoa River," Kirby said Friday. "They were going to float down the river. Somewhere out of Blairsville they went around a curve and lost control.

"We've never had anything ever like this," Kirby said. "This is a tragic, tragic thing."

Georgia State Patrol Trooper Mack Mason said the bus "was tangled up like a fishing line. You had to start at one end and unravel it. It was caved in so bad, you just had to more or less crawl through it like a tunnel."

Mason described the road as a 3.1-mile downgrade.

"No tractor-trailer trucks go across that way. It's too steep for them. If you don't know how to brake, how to gear your vehicle down, your brakes will never stand it," he said.

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