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Teen-Agers Screamed, Prayed as Bus Raced Out-Of-Control Toward Crash

June 27, 1987

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. (AP) _ Teen-agers screamed and prayed as their church bus, its brakes burned out, ran off a steep mountain road and plunged 50 feet, killing a 14-year-old girl and injuring 29 people.

The brakes gave out around Friday afternoon as the bus was coming down the winding, two-lane Richard Russell Scenic Highway, said Union County Sheriff Tom Duncan.

″People were praying, saying, ’Oh God, just help us,‴ as the driver tried to slow the bus down, said David Harris, 14. ″But we kept going faster and faster.″ Harris said he blacked out.

The bus smashed into a grove of trees, Duncan said.

″After the bus came to a rest, I heard people yelling, screaming, ’Help, help, get me out,″ said David Earnest, 15, who received scratches, bruises and a black eye.

″The seats were everywhere. Luggage was everywhere. Seats were ripped apart. People’s bodies were at all different angles. People were cut to the bone,″ said Harris, who suffered a back injury and was hospitalized.

The bus was one of two carrying youngsters from the First Baptist Church of Winter Haven, Fla., from a weeklong stay at a youth camp in the northeastern Georgia mountains.

Some victims were trapped for as long as two hours, and worried parents gathered at the church in hopes of getting more information.

″It was tangled up like a fishing line,″ said State Patrol Trooper Mack Mason. ″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.″

The dead girl was identified as Angela Jones, said Civil Defense spokesman Ron DeLong. She apparently suffocated when she was pinned against a seat, said Towns County Fire Chief David Sellers.

The Rev. Frank Brooks, 39, who was driving the bus, was thrown out of the vehicle, DeLong said. He was airlifted to Kennestone Hospital in suburban Atlanta, where he was in critical condition.

Twenty-seven others were hospitalized, and one person was treated and released, said Patsy Efird, director of nursing at Union County General Hospital.

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