Covington, GA Train And Auto Crash, May 1971

TRAIN-AUTO CRASH KILLS NINE YOUNGSTERS IN COVINGTON, GA.

Covington, Ga. (AP) - Ten youngsters piled into DANNY HENDERSON'S "new" car for a Sunday ride. Nine of them died a short time later when a freight train slammed into the compact auto and dragged it almost a mile.
JIMMY NORWOOD and his sister ALMETHIN were among the victims. So were PEGGY ANN FULLER and her sister SUSIE ANN FULLER.
The 10 ranged in age from 12 to 16. The only one spared was SHARON BELCHER, 16. She was taken to an Atlanta hospital in critical condition.
The accident at an elevated country road crossing was less than three miles west of their homes in this north central Georgia community of 10,300.
Newton County Sheriff Henry Odum said the car was hit broadside by the lead diesel of a 65-car Georgia Railroad freight train traveling at about 45 miles an hour.
Odum said the accident occurred when HENDERSON'S car attempted to pass another vehicle which had stopped at the crossing.
He said the 10-year-old, second-hand vehicle was bent nearly in half by the impact, with the right rear end of the car lacking only five feet of touching the right front wheel.
"They never knew what hit them," Newton County Coroner Sam Cowan said. "I was in the first ambulance to arrive and, at first glance, I didn't see how there could be any survivors."
Killed were HENDERSON, 16; JIMMY NORWOOD, 15; his sister, ALMETHIN, 12; VICKIE GILSTRAP, 14; DIRA WILLIAMS, 12; PEGGY ANN FULLER, 15; her sister, SUSIE ANN FULLER, 12; HAROLD TUGGLE, 16; and SHEILIA HEIGHT, 14.
The state patrol listed HENDERSON as the driver.
All of the youngsters lived within a few blocks of one another in Covington, 35 miles east of Atlanta.
The State Patrol said HENDERSON had acquired the car less than three weeks ago.
"It was his first car," one trooper commented. "Apparently he wanted to share it with his friends."
"We don't know exactly where they were going or where they had been," the trooper continued. "As far as we've been able to ascertain, they were just out riding around."
Portions of the community - those who knew the victims or their families - were stunned by the tragedy. Less than an hour after it occurred separate crowds of about 200 persons each gathered at the two funeral homes to which the bodies were taken.

Santa Cruz Sentinel California 1971-05-03