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Hundreds Mourn Three Victims Of Bus Accident

July 21, 1987

MESQUITE, Texas (AP) _ Five more teen-agers who drowned in the raging waters of the Guadalupe River last week were buried Tuesday as the search continued for the last of the victims.

At a service packed with more than 800 grieving friends and family members, the Rev. Sylvester Matthew, pastor of the Open Door Baptist Church, read a poem that had been written by one of the victims.

Leslie Gossett, 14, in a poem called ″I Love You,″ wrote that if she ever had to leave her loved ones, ″please do not let the thought of me be sad for you. For I am loving you just as I always have.″

Mourners knelt in the aisles of the small church and filled two classrooms equipped with television monitors for the service that honored Miss Gossett, Stacey Smith, 17, and her 14-year-old sister, Tonya Smith.

Those three and six others died near their church camp in Comfort on Friday after 43 people scrambled out of two church vehicles and were scattered by the pounding water.

Michael O’Neal, 16, and Legenia Keenum, who turned 15 the day she died, were buried later Tuesday in separate services.

Meanwhile, about 250 people aided in another day of searching for John Bankston, 17, the only camper still missing, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve Saxon. The bodies of nine other victims have been recovered.

At the service in Mesquite, photographs of the three girls sat atop caskets surrounded by dozens of floral arrangements, mainly pink roses and carnations.

″It’s going to take time to heal,″ said the Rev. Preston Henderson of the Seagoville Road Baptist Church, which many of the youngsters attended. ″Lean on one another. Use the love that the Bible has taught you.″

After the service, the caskets were loaded into three white hearses that were trailed by more than a half-mile of limousines and hundreds of cars en route to the cemetery. Some of the mourners were among the survivors of the accident and were still wearing bandages.

Miss Gossett played basketball and volleyball for the Balch Springs Christian Academy, where she was also a cheerleader.

Stacey Smith, a sophomore homecoming princess, was honored for being the ″Best Christian Example″ at the academy. Toyna Smith played volleyball for the school. Their older brother, Michael, 18, survived the bus accident.

Turning to the parents of the girls, Matthew said, ″You raised good children.″

The three girls grew up attending Sunday School together at the Open Door church.

″They were just lovely girls,″ said Frenton Smith, who taught them when they were young. ″They were sweet and good.″

″There’s people that care about others and there’s people who don’t,″ said Skip Shoffner, who helped build the church with the Smiths’ father, Jerry. ″I saw these three girls grow up and all three cared about others. They didn’t have a ‘me-bigger-than-them’ attitude.″

″We’ve lost the backbone of our youth group,″ said Henderson. ″They done right. They knew the Lord.″

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