Exclusive: Friends remember bus driver who died in crash

Friends remember driver killed in Gilmer County

MARIETTA, Ga. -- Close friends and longtime customers are remembering Rick Rees, the bus driver who was killed in Gilmer County on Thursday.

Rees was taking a group of senior citizens to a casino in North Carolina on Thursday when he died.

11Alive spoke exclusively to a couple of Rees’s regular customers who said he was far more than their driver - he was their friend.

“Rick and Barbara are more than just friends, they are, how would you say, family,” said Dan DeGracia.

Dan and Bette DeGracia have been on Rick and Barbara Rees’ bus dozens of times over the last 25 years.

“Dozens oh, I’d say over a hundred,” said Bette and Dan DeGracia.

They're regular customers of the Greattime Getaways casino tours out of Marietta.

“They would walk around the casino and make sure you are having a good time they’d ask if they could do anything for you,” said Bette DeGracia.

Actually, the DeGracia’s were planning to go on last Thursday’s trip to North Carolina.

“I told him we couldn’t go because we had doctor’s appointments,” said Bette DeGracia.

Instead, they heard about it on the news.

The Greattime Getaways bus, Rick was driving, crashed into a semi-truck, in Gilmer County.

Rick died, his wife Barbara has a broken arm, and others were hurt.

“I’ll miss the trips with Rick driving I’ll miss that a lot, he was such a warm and friendly person,” said Bette DeGracia.

Dan and Bette are remembering someone who did more than just drive a bus, he was their friend.

“Rick would take care of all the luggage and make sure that you were safe and if you had any complaints in the room you called him and he would come out and get it,” said Dan DeGracia.

For two decades, sometimes once a week, Dan and Bette occupied the seats right behind Rick as he drove the bus, memories they’ll hang onto.

“I don’t think there was anybody they didn’t like,” said Bette DeGracia.

“His friendliness, talking football while we’re driving, he was an Oregon guy, he loved his Oregon Ducks, I’m going to miss that,” added Dan DeGracia.

The DeGracia’s said Rees was a great driver, very safe and careful.

A survivor who talked to 11Alive on Friday called Rees a hero saying he did everything he could to try and prevent the crash.

It is still under investigation.

(© 2016 WXIA)


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