College in mourning - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

College in mourning

August 30, 2004

Climax - The crash happened around 4:00 PM during a class. Three students in the college's Commercial Driver's license class were in a tractor trailer with their instructor when the big rig was hit by a train.

Ann Salter heard the explosion from her home. She says, "I ran out on my deck and I saw the smoke billowing and got in my truck and ran down here and it was just exploding, just explosions."

She never could have imagined what she would find. "No one was left," she says. "I mean nothing."

Four people trapped inside a truck after being hit by a train. "I'm still just shaking," says Salter, "because when you see it and you know the bodies are in there just burning to no end, I mean it is an inferno."

Witnesses tell police that the truck stopped at the tracks, but for some unknown reason, pulled into the path of the oncoming train. It then burst into flames as it was pushed more than 1000 ft. down the tracks.

Sgt. Buddy Johnson of the Georgia State Patrol says every fatality is a tragedy, but with the loss of four people, the community will need to pull together and support one another.

Sgt. Johnson says, "The community needs to come together and support these people and help them get through this hard time."

Bainbridge College President Dr. Cliff Brock was fighting back tears himself as he extended condolences to the families. "Our heartfelt sorrow, we join them," says Dr. Brock. "We can't suffer as much as they are, but as I say, Bainbridge College is a small place, and anytime anything happens it affects our students, our faculty, our staff. It's the entire college."

Now the entire college, the entire community, is mourning. "What I'd say to these families is we'll grieve with you," says Brock. As will the rest of Southwest Georgia.

The victims were identified as Deborah Martin, age 40 and Jamie Holmes, age 34 of Cairo, 46-year old Michael Raley of Colquitt, and 38-year old Laura Jenson, who was the instructor, of Bainbridge.

posted at 10:29 PM by karen.collier@walb.com