A roadside memorial is displayed at the base of the pine tree where the hefty Ford E-350 Goshen Coach shuttle bus came to an abrupt stop, killing 57-year-old Raymond Austin, 56-year-old Thomas Jones and 45-year-old Phillip McGuff, all of Jasper.
Driver Crystal Pigg, 33, of Double Springs, was the only survivor. Pigg lost control of the Arc shuttle bus shortly after 8 a.m. while driving west along a 35 mph stretch of Ridgewood Road.
She left the road shortly after crossing a speed table not far from the accident scene. The bus traveled about 150 feet along a grassy decline prior to hitting the tree head-on.
Austin was pronounced dead at the scene. McGuff died at Walker Baptist Medical Center. Jones succumbed to his injuries later that day after being airlifted to UAB Hospital.
One might think that nearly two months after the terrible accident the families of the three dead men might have some closure, that more questions would be answered than not.
The investigation is ongoing, we are told. Perhaps soon evidence will be turned over to District Attorney Bill Adair for his review and possible presentation before a Walker County grand jury.
And civil action appears inevitable.
In no way do I want to vilify Pigg or The Arc. This may have been just a tragic accident. If so, someone needs to say such … on the record.
While she cannot comment on the ongoing investigation in detail, Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe made the following statements to me recently:“During my time as chief of police, I’ve seen several disturbing scenes, but none more disturbing than the accident scene on Ridgewood Road that morning,” she said. “… Multiple victims, three with special needs and life-threatening injuries – very disturbing.”
She added, “This investigation is one of our top priorities. The significance of a MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) in which three people died has our attention.”
Lou Vick, the well-respected director of The Arc for the past 26 years, told me this week that he and his staff are still mourning the loss. “It’s been devastating to us,” he said. “I’ve watched our staff grieve for these men. They were like family to us.”
Vick also confirmed that Pigg is still employed by The Arc, although he did not say in what capacity.
There is no doubt that investigators are treating this tragic accident with kid gloves, as they should. In the meantime, many questions are left unanswered.
Reports and test results are incomplete, and we are left to wonder what, if anything, caused the unfortunate accident.
Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.