Family members return to Forkland

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2007

FORKLAND &8212; Most of the members of an extended Forkland family injured in a tour bus accident on Monday returned home yesterday to receive news that bus driver Abraham Parker died Tuesday afternoon. One family member of the 15 victims of the crash who remained hospitalized was in critical condition Tuesday as well.

Family and friends in the small town welcomed the arrival of their loved ones and awaited news on others still hospitalized.

Woods said Armstead is expected to have a full recovery and is being treated at The Medical Center in Bowling Green, Ky.

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Woods said he received word from family members that other community leaders, including president of the Forkland Volunteer Fire Department Hardis Washington, were also recovering well from the accident.

Woods said he learned that Catherine Washington, wife of Hardis Washington and director of the center for senior activities in Forkland, had been released from the hospital with only minor injuries.

Family members of Carrie Walton returning from Kentucky are scheduled to make formal arrangements for Walton&8217;s funeral, which is tentatively set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Forkland.

Ten people were in stable condition at The Medical Center in Bowling Green, spokeswoman Doris Thomas said. One person at Greenview Regional Hospital was expected to go home Tuesday, according to spokeswoman Kelly Wiseman.

A child, 7-year-old Kayalon Jackson, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, hospital spokesman Jerry Jones said. Two other passengers were in stable condition, Jones said.

Nine family members stayed overnight in a Red Cross shelter in Bowling Green, said Leigh Lunn, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. Some had family in the hospitals and other were awaiting transportation home.

The bus veered off a southern Kentucky interstate early Monday and slammed into an overpass support, killing Carrie Walton, 71, and resulting in injuries that left 15 people hospitalized Monday night, and later claiming the life of Parker.

State police said a preliminary investigation found that the driver had apparently dozed off. Trooper Steve Pavey said no charges were pending against the driver, who died after the troopers released their comments. Walton was ejected from the bus upon impact, police said.

Jaida Goree, 27, woke up minutes before the crash and was trying to go back to sleep when she heard something.

The force of the crash threw Goree forward several rows. She called for her two children in the chaos that followed. Neither were seriously hurt.

Two passing truckers stopped to help the family get off the bus through the emergency exit, Goree said, adding she didn&8217;t know what caused the accident.

Mary Hill, who said most of those on the bus were her cousins, drove five hours Monday morning after getting word that her brother, John Collins, was injured in the crash.

State police said there were 42 adult passengers, 23 children and two drivers on the bus.

The crash happened at 2:56 a.m., while most of the bus passengers were asleep, state police said. As officials worked hours later to remove the shattered bus from the roadside, children&8217;s pink suitcases, blankets and other luggage could be seen piled along the shoulder of busy Interstate 65, about 75 miles north of Nashville.

Some of the bus passengers being treated at the scene wore T-shirts commemorating the Hamilton-Jackson-Hendricks Family Reunion, held over the weekend in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Clarence Williams, president of Birmingham-based C&R Tours, which owns the bus, confirmed it had been rented by an Alabama family for a trip to upstate New York. He did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment after state police released their preliminary finding on the cause of the crash.

The company had a satisfactory safety rating when it was last reviewed in March, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. It had not reported any accidents or injuries in the last two years.

The passengers included about 40 members of the Jackson family from Forkland, and several town officials, said Cynthia K. Stone, city clerk in the west Alabama community of 630 people.

Walton was &8220;a very lovely person,&8221; Stone said. &8220;She was a wonderful mother and grandmother. Her family was the most important thing to her.&8221;

By late evening, most of the family members &8212; many of them bandaged, on crutches and in wheelchairs &8212; had continued their journey home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.