GILMER COUNTY, Ga. -- A survivor of a crash that left one person dead and 43 others injured said the bus driver was a hero.
The accident happened around 11:15 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Whitestone Road and Ga. State Road 515. A tour bus headed to a casino collided with a tractor-trailer.
Authorities said the tractor-trailer was attempted to make a left turn but had to stop in the middle of the road due to oncoming traffic.
“The bus driver started blowing his horn,” said Maureen Hersey, a passenger on the bus. “And that's when I looked forward and I saw the truck in the middle of the road.”
Hersey said the crash sounded like a bolt of lightning.
“I was thrown forward and they have ash trays in the back of the seats and that’s when I hit this -- it was a metal ash tray,” she said.
The impact left her with deep cuts on her feet, purple bruises on her face and two fractured ribs. She said the other passengers were thrown around like toys landing on various parts on the bus.
“The woman next to me, she flew out of her seat and on to the floor and I was looking around seeing who was really injured,” Hersey said.
She said passengers took care of each other before EMTs arrived.
“They didn't know what had happened and all of a sudden people were telling them, ‘Oh, your face is bleeding,’” Hersey said.
The sides of the bus were cut out to pull the passengers out.
Hersey called the driver a hero. She said he did everything he could to prevent the crash and warn everyone that were was a problem.
“He had his hand on the horn blasting it and then he was trying to swerve to avoid it,” she said.
She looked for him in the aftermath.
“I kept saying, ‘Where's the driver, where's the driver,’” she said. “Then one of the EMTs told me.”
That's when she learned the driver, 66-year-old Richard Rees of Marietta had died.
Hersey said she’s praying for his family.
She had a lot of praise also for the first-responders. She said they were extremely efficient and compassionate. She also thanked everyone who has prayed for all those involved.