By Ed Brock and Tamara Boatwright
As the crowd of curious onlookers grew, firefighters and other rescue personnel worked frantically to free a driver from the mangled metal of a C-TRAN bus which had collided with a dump truck along Flint River Road Tuesday afternoon.
"We heard a crash, turned around and there was the wreck," said Eric Evans, who is working on the paving project that has nearly the entire stretch of Flint River Road/Pointe South Parkway in disarray.
Evans was one of several men working on the paving and widening project when the accident occurred.
Witnesses say a dump truck owned by G&J Trucking in Lithonia, which had just unloaded asphalt, was traveling west at the time of the accident. Traveling at a "high rate of speed," the truck topped a hill in the construction area and saw a car stopped to make a right turn into a nearby daycare center, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.
"He had a choice of hitting the car or going left (into the oncoming lane)," Turner said. "He chose to pull to the left but as he did he ran into the C-TRAN bus head on."
The impact pinned the bus driver in his seat and it took rescuers nearly 45 minutes to free him. The rescue was made more difficult by the diesel fuel that was pouring from the truck's ruptured fuel tank. The dump truck driver, 35-year-old Dieon Agard of Riverdale, reportedly tried to back up after the collision despite shouts from the bus driver that he was pinned in the wreckage.
After he was extricated bus driver Daniel Jackson, 35, of Lithonia was taken by air ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center. His injuries were serious but not life threatening, Turner said.
The passengers on the bus were helped off the bus and to the ground where they lay until rescue workers arrived. Three of them, Chiwen Cook, 27, of Atlanta, Sarah Bufford, 24, of Riverdale and Nicole Clark, 28, of Jonesboro were taken by ground ambulance to Southern Regional Medical Center. The fourth passenger, Nicole Clark's husband 31-year-old Ross Clark of Jonesboro rode to the hospital with his wife but did not seek treatment there, Turner said.
Agard complained of chest pains after the accident and was also taken to SRMC. He has been charged with driving too fast for conditions, due to the construction in the area, and failure to maintain his lane, Turner said.
Wayne Carden, a driver who was waiting to dump his truck load of asphalt, said he has driven dump trucks for 20 years and has "great respect" for them.
"Young, inexperienced drivers get in a hurry," he said. "And this is what happens."