Campus reeling a day after deaths of 5 Ga. Southern students

Campus reeling a day after deaths of 5 Ga. Southern students

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The flags fly at half-staff at Georgia Southern University while senior Katie Pursley, 21, visits the Memorial Service site on Sweetheart Circle for those students whose lives were tragically lost on Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Statesboro. Pursley, from Athens, keeps a daily journal in which she drew the school mascot an eagle with a tear to symbolize the grief of the university.

A day after the shocking interstate crash that killed five of her classmates, one Georgia Southern University nursing student injured in the wreck was released from one hospital and transferred to another.

Few other details have been released about the crash.

John Wayne Johnson, 55, driver of the truck that authorities say initiated the fatal sequence, has not been charged, but the investigation by the Georgia State Patrol continues. Authorities say Johnson, from Shreveport, La., plowed into traffic that was slowed for a previous wreck on I-16.

Those killed — Emily Clark, 20, of Powder Springs; Morgan Bass, 20, of Leesburg; Abbie Deloach, 21, of Savannah; Catherine “McKay” Pittman, 21, of Alpharetta; and Caitlyn Baggett, 21, of Millen — were being mourned on their school’s Statesboro campus.

Two grim-faced florists placed a spray of white roses, encircled by a black ribbon, on the door leading into the School of Nursing.

Not far away, some of the brothers of Delta Tau Delta delivered red roses to a neighboring sorority – the first of several stops the fraternity planned to make at sororities where young women wept.

And a real estate agent this morning rearranged letters on a sign to express the grief that has come sudden and hard to Georgia Southern:

“Praying For Our Eagle nation.”

In groups and clusters, in public and private, students and others in Statesboro are struggling to accept the unacceptable: five of their own – two from metro Atlanta – are dead.

“It (death) happens on the interstate all the time, but just to know that members of our own community have passed?” said Cydnie Mitchell, a junior from Warner Robins. “It’s tragic, just tragic.”

Two tractor-trailers and five passenger vehicles were involved in the wreck, which happened about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday in Bryan County. The Georgia Southern students were traveling in a Toyota Corolla and a Ford Escape, and four of them died at the scene. Three others in the Escape were taken to Memorial, where the fifth student died, according to police.

Investigators believe one tractor-trailer plowed into an SUV, then rolled over a small passenger car that burst into flames. The truck came to a halt after slamming into the back of a tanker.

A memorial put together by student leaders is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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