Church Bus Plunges Down Mountain; 1 Killed

Associated Press

A church bus ran off a road and plunged 50 feet down a mountainside Friday, killing a 13-year-old girl and injuring 30 other youths, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus apparently gave out as the vehicle was coming down a steep incline on the Richard Russell Scenic Highway, a winding, two-lane road, Union County Sheriff Tom Duncan said.

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

The bus jumped a guardrail and landed about 40 to 50 feet down an embankment, said Dean Dyer of WRWH radio in Cleveland, who was at the scene.

The Rev. Hugh Kirby of the New Hope Baptist Church in Fayettville, Ga., said the youngsters were attending "Life Week" at a 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 and went over the side of a cliff.

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

The identity of the dead teen-ager was not released. The most seriously injured youths were flown by helicopter to Atlanta, where at least one was treated for critical injuries.

Most of the injured initially were taken to Union General Hospital in Blairsville, hospital spokeswoman Janie Beavers said. The more seriously injured were then transferred to other hospitals.

A 15-year-old girl was being treated at Emory University's Henrietta Egleston Hospital for critical injuries and fractures, spokeswoman Andrea Mise said.

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