5 to be buried Friday in Texas

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2003

[10/15/03]Friday will be a tough day in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas.

Services for Kennith and Betty Richardson, will be at 11 a.m. Both were 81.

Services for Mary Ruth Robinson will be at 2 p.m. She was 63.

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Services for Domingo, 65, and Delia Pina, 72, will be at 4 p.m.

They were five of the eight people who died after the 350-member church’s bus, with 15 people aboard, crashed into the rear of an 18-wheeler parked on the side of Interstate 20 near Tallulah Monday morning.

John Wilson Kerbow Funeral Home in Eldorado said he would be receiving the bodies from Glenwood Funeral Home in Vicksburg.

Jean Demere, 74, Jimmie Teel, 68, and Laverne Shannon, 76, also died. Demere was from San Angelo and Teal and Shannon were from Water Valley, other West Texas towns about an hour from Eldorado. Johnson Funeral Home in San Angelo has charge of their arrangements.

All had signed up for what was to be a 16-day casual fall tour to sites as far as Pennsylvania. The trip ended at I-20’s mile marker 168, 22 miles west of Vicksburg.

The seven who survived remained in four different hospitals in Vicksburg, Monroe, Shreveport and Jackson.

Mabel Blaylock, a homemaker, was in stable but serious condition at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport.

Her husband, Billy Frank Blaylock, a retired World War II veteran, was in fair condition at University Medical Condition in Jackson.

Mary Barton Robinson, 74, was in fair and stable condition in the North Monroe Medical Center this morning. She was expected to return to a Texas hospital for surgery on her foot today.

Jim Robinson, 70, also at North Monroe Medical Center, was listed in fair and stable condition. His wife, Mary Ruth Robinson was killed in the crash. Jim and Mary Ruth Robinson are not related to Mary Barton Robinson.

Dana Owens, 75, a retired teacher, was in fair condition in the ICU at River Region Medical Center.

Olean Stricklan, 70, was in good condition at River Region.

Ken Thomas, 66, who was the driver of the bus, was in good condition.

Julie Lewis, the Louisiana State trooper who had charge of the accident scene said Thomas told her he nodded off before his fellow travelers shouted to wake him, but the impact could not be avoided. He was cited for careless driving.

“As of this time, we understand that the driver fell asleep and there was no negligence involved,” Lewis said.

Lewis said that blood samples were taken from Thomas, who, along with Domingo Pina, had obtained licenses to drive their friends on the church bus. The samples will be tested for alcohol and drugs. Charges could be upgraded if tests show any substances contributed to the wreck, she said.

A breath test was also done on the driver of the parked 18-wheeler, which had bales of cotton in its trailer. The results showed Ernest Mixon, 69, an Edwards resident, had not been drinking. He appeared shaken at the scene, where he had stopped to check his brakes, but was not taken to a hospital.

The Senior Ambassadors loaded up in Eldorado Sunday and drove about eight hours to Shreveport, which is about 3 1/2 hours west of Vicksburg. Lewis said the bus left Shreveport around 8 a.m. Monday and stopped once for fuel before the wreck.

When first responders notified the River Region Medical Center emergency room workers, hospital officials said the hospital would accept six patients.

John Williams, director of the emergency department, said the decision was made by the emergency room physicians so that the hospital would not be overwhelmed.

“We don’t have the resources to take more than six critical patients at a time,” Williams said.

Although the bus could have held 50 or more passengers, it was not known at the time how many were aboard. The decision to accept can depend on the staff and bed availability.

In a typical shift, two emergency room doctors are on duty. During the day, five nurses are on duty, and four are on duty during the evening, with one nurse staffed to work from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Williams said the hospital has a crisis plan in place that allows workers to call physicians working inside the hospital or physicians at home to help in an emergency.

River Region, at U.S. 61 North and Sherman Avenue, was opened in 2002 and is a level 3 trauma center. The level is designated by the Central Mississippi Trauma Region, with Level 1 being the highest. University Medical Center in Jackson is the only Level 1 trauma center in the state.

Beth Cullum, chief nursing officer, said the hospital will not likely move to a level 2 because the primary criteria for moving up is offering neurosurgery.

Still, the hospital, about 30 minutes from the crash site, was the largest medical facility in the area. Five injured were brought to River Region Medical Center, Williams said. One patient was transferred from the hospital to University Medical Center because of head injuries, Williams said.