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Investigators recreate tragic wreck

SCRT investigator, Trooper David McLemore SCRT investigator, Trooper David McLemore

September 22, 2003

Coffee County- Orange spray paint and flags mark the southbound lane and shoulder of Smith Cemetery Road in Coffee County.

Troopers say 29-year old Amanda Michelle Troupe of Ambrose was headed northbound in the southbound lane when she collided head on with a Yamaha Bear Tracker loaded with 6 children.

The crash killed the 14-year old driver of the ATV and four others and left a sixth with serious injuries. Troopers say people should focus on the rules of the road when it comes to 4-wheelers.

"We hope that this will be a lesson learned for other people in the community or in the state that this is dangerous to ride on the highway, especially at night time and with that many people on them," says SCRT investigator, Trooper David McLemore.

Troopers say for a 4-wheeler to be street legal it must be equipped with headlights, tail lights, brakes, an exhaust system, and road tires. It must also be operated by a licensed driver.

People in Coffee County are still stunned by Saturday's devastating wreck. It was an especially somber day for students at West Coffee Middle School who were all classmates of the six children involved in the collision.

Cora Anne Nelson, or Megan, as her friends and family called her just wanted to have fun celebrating her brother's birthday. Family members say she took her friends out for a ride Saturday night, but the tragic wreck took her life and just hours before her own 14th birthday.

"It's just a hard job especially when dealing with kids because you had to deal with the parents and you're dealing with their grief. Children always hit somebody hard. I have two kids of my own and I think about that too," says McLemore.

State Troopers investigating the wreck say it's the worst one they've seen all year, and dealing with the tragedy has been difficult for students and staff at West Coffee Middle School.

"This is probably the most tragic event in my 30 years in the profession," says school counselor, Danita Knowles.

School officials have enlisted the help of every counselor and psychologist in the system to help classmates through the grieving process.

"We had a triage team so to speak we used our career center as well as the Home Economics room for small group counseling and at one time we had as many 13 small groups going," explains Knowles.

Students spent the morning writing letters and making cards in memory of their friends, but counselors say parents must also do their part.

"We lead very, very busy lives and its so easy to not have time for each other as families this is one time when it is imperative that parents be there for their children spend time with them, listen to them answer their questions as best you can," Knowles adds.

Outside the flag flies at half staff, an outward sign of the sadness felt within school walls.

Counselors say parents should encourage students to express emotions and get involved in activities. They say you should seek professional help if your child shows prolonged signs of depression or withdrawal.

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Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com