Student killed, multiple injured in Huntsville church bus crash - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Student killed, multiple injured in Huntsville church bus crash in Atlanta

Sarah Harmening (Source: Harmening family) Sarah Harmening (Source: Harmening family)
Sarah Harmening (Source: Harmening family) Sarah Harmening (Source: Harmening family)
A bus from Mount Zion baptist Church in Huntsville crashed in Atlanta. (Source: NBC) A bus from Mount Zion baptist Church in Huntsville crashed in Atlanta. (Source: NBC)
(Source: NBC) (Source: NBC)
(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)

A teenager from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville lost her life when the church's bus crashed in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday afternoon. Several others were injured, some critically.

Fulton County police report the bus was traveling eastbound on Camp Creek Parkway when it lost control and crashed into a mid-sized Chrysler 200 and Mercedes Benz. The bus overturned in the crash.

The church said this was one of two buses on their way to a mission trip to Botswana, Africa. The the bus was carrying 37 people, including students in grades 11 and 12.

One of those students lost her life. Family members identified her as 17-year-old Sarah Harmening.

Twenty-four patients were transported to Wellstar Atlanta Medical locations in Atlanta, East Point and Marietta. Four patients remained hospitalized by Friday morning.

Police said seven people were still in Grady Memorial Hospital on Friday. Two were at Atlanta Medical Center Main. All of them were on the bus.

Two people in the Mercedes and one person in the Chrysler were injured. Police said the people injured in these vehicles have been released.

Police did not have an exact count of how many were hurt or the extent of those injuries. After the crash, officials said at least 20 had been taken to various hospitals. Some had critical injuries.

READ MORE: Survivor recounts deadly Huntsville church bus crash

The Fulton County Police Department is handling the investigation. Deputy Chief Darryl Halbert said that because of the ongoing investigation, the cause of the wreck and possible charges are pending but are not being released at this time.

Halbert said they will do a wreck reconstruction to learn more about the cause. He said preliminary information does not reveal speeding to be a factor.

They will also interview the driver, who was still in serious condition Friday.

In an emotional press conference Thursday night, Harmening's mother read a passage from her daughter's journal that was written on the bus, just hours before she died.

It says she was sitting on the bus feeling sad that she was leaving home for a long time. Then she opened up her Bible, and read entries from 1st and 2nd Peter, which reminded her that she was spreading God's love to the children of Botswana she was going to help. 

"So mostly, I was just reminded of why I'm here, and God has called me here, and he has done this for a reason. So I know he is going to do incredible things. And we were up there talking and praying. And we know the incredible thing was impacting the world for Jesus Christ.," said Karen Harmening, Mother.

Her sister Katelyn who was there also spoke to the media, and said she texted with Sarah in the hours leading up to the trip and Sarah said the mission trip, quote.

"Not about us, life is not about us, it's about God who is eternal, and I want to dedicate the one moment I'm here completely and entirely to him," said Katelyn Harmening, Sister.   

The family was very emotional and Karen Harmening really only asked for one thing at the press conference, that people out there hearing about this tragedy if they don't already know the love of Jesus Christ, that for the sake of her daughter, they give him a chance.

The Fulton County Ambulance Service says to call 678-473-1234 to find loved ones. Hospitals can call to report discharges.

Families of the most critical patients were flown to Atlanta. Meanwhile, church members gathered at Mount Zion back home.

One of those church members is Madison County Commissioner Phil Vandiver. His wife and son were on the bus, but they were OK.

"I got a hold of my son about two minutes after the accident. Thank God he carries a phone in his pocket. He was just, he was just rather shook. Couldn't get much information, but him and his mama were fine," Vandiver said. "We just want to keep those other family members that have more serious injuries, want to keep those in our prayers and keep those remembered."

On Friday, Mount Zion baptist Church released a statement with the following:

Our focus today is on our church family and their healing.

Mount Zion Baptist Church covets the prayers from around the country and the world during this time.

Furthermore out church family is eternally grateful for the rescue efforts on the scene and also at local hospitals throughout Atlanta, Georgia.

Mount Zion Baptist Church has been a mission driven church since it's inception in 1860 spreading the word to the lost of the world and our mission remains the same.

While our hearts are heavy our vision has never been clearer.

READ MORE: Huntsville church making 'prayer map' for Mount Zion Baptist Church bus victims

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon released the following statement:

The Huntsville community is coalescing around the Mount Zion Baptist Church family as transportation to Atlanta is being provided, blocks of hotels rooms are being booked, and local leaders are doing everything possible to aid and assist the relatives and friends of those affected. The Speaker’s Office stands ready to do everything in our power to assist this effort, and we will ensure that Gov. Kay Ivey remains updated on the situation.

On a very personal note, I would ask that everyone in Alabama join me in praying for our fellow citizens as the details and after effects of this tragic accident are being sorted out. Ask God to quickly heal those who are injured both physically and emotionally, to provide comfort to those who lost a loved one, and to bring peace to those who were traveling halfway across the globe to selflessly do His work in a foreign land. Let’s also remember the pastors, church leaders, and congregation of Mount Zion Baptist Church as they work to come to terms with this tragic accident.

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