2 killed, 7 injured after van carrying adults with special needs slams into big rig

ajc.com

Two people were killed and seven were injured Monday afternoon when a passenger van carrying adults with special needs crashed into the back of tractor-trailer in Union City.

The tractor-trailer was stopped in a left lane on Royal Parkway waiting to turn left into a parking area of a business, according to the Georgia State Patrol. The van, a Ford Transit, slammed head-on into the right bumper of the rig, killing the driver and a passenger in the second row.

The driver was identified by authorities Wednesday as 33-year-old Aquilla Walker of Riverdale. Both she and a passenger, Cyprian Sanders, 25, of Atlanta, were dead at the scene.

Walker was a staff member with InCommunity, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta that supports adults with developmental disabilities and their families. She was taking a group of program participants home from the organization’s day center off Buffington Road.

“It’s very heartbreaking as you can imagine,” said Amanda McPhail, the director of community relations at InCommunity. “We have lost two members of our community, both as our work family and as our friends.”

It was a daily trip for Walker, who works as a direct care provider helping with the activities of daily living and transportation to and from the center. Her passengers, all of whom had special needs, were on their way back home to their families or to group homes. Six of the other passengers were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with injuries.

They range in age from 24 to 55 and reside in the Southside communities of Union City, Fairburn and College Park, the GSP said. One injured passenger is from Atlanta.

An eighth passenger, who is from Palmetto, was not taken to the hospital.

Samantha Hudson told Channel 2 Action News her 27-year-old daughter, Mykeil, was one of the passengers on the bus. She said Mykeil’s leg is bruised and she possibly suffered a concussion, but she’s been released from the hospital.

“When you look at the accident, I’m surprised she made it out,” Hudson told Channel 2. “Cognitively, communication is already low ... and now trying to access what’s right (and) what’s wrong with her, I don’t know how.”

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 49-year-old Jerome David of Marietta, was also injured and was taken to WellStar Atlanta Medical Center South for treatment.

McPhail could not release any further information on program participants, but she said the organization often serves people with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

InCommunity is working with the families involved in the accident and have extended support to staff and to the individuals enrolled in their programs. Grief counseling will be available at the Buffington center, which serves 55 adults, McPhail said.

“We are assessing the needs of our families and we are waiting for information from the police department assigned to this case,” she said in a statement. “We don’t have any further information at this time and will move quickly once more information becomes available to us. Until then our focus and priorities are ‘how can we help our families and staff.’”

An update on the conditions of those injured was not provided Wednesday. The crash remains under investigation, and no other details were immediately released.

— Please return to AJC.com for updates.

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