Oxford, MS Freak Crash Kills Five, Mar 1987



Oxford, Miss. (UPI) - The University of Mississippi on Friday mourned the deaths of five students killed when a truck slammed into the rear of an escort car and hurled it into a band of Chi Omega sorority sisters on a charity walkathon.
"They were the sweetest girls in the world," said one of several students who kept an all-night vigil at a Memphis hospital, where two of the women died Friday morning.
"They didn't deserve to die. Everyone is in shock."
Flags were lowered to half-staff on the stately tree-lined campus, and students flocked to a prayer service in Tad Smith Coliseum, Chancellor Gerald Turner, area ministers and others planned to address students.
No charges had been filed against the driver of the truck. Investigators said he was not speeding.
Frank Hurdle of Holly Springs, a second-year law student and newly elected editor of the Daily Mississippian, said, "Everyone
is dazed. It's like that. Everybody knows everybody else."
He said most fraternities were gearing up for "a big party weekend, Greek Week," when the news hit campus. During a meeting of fraternity presidents the program was called off indefinitely.
The weekend was to have been festive at Chi Omega house, which claims as its alumnae two back to back Miss Americas, Mary Ann Mobley in 1959 and Lynda Lee Mead in 1960.
MARGARET GARDNER, 20, of Tupelo, and HESS WORSHAM, 20, of Corinth, died Friday of massive head injuries at Regional Medical Center in Memphis. Killed earlier were MAR PAT LANGFORD, 20, of Atlanta; BETH ROBERSON, 20, of Greenwood; and ROBIN SIMMONS, 20, of Tupelo.
All were members of Chi Omega.
Eleven other girls were injured.
The Rev. Duncan Gray of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Oxford visited the antebellum-style Chi Omega house, where older alumnae tried to console the younger women. Chi Omega, founded in 1899, is one of the largest sororities on campus, with about 175 members and pledges.
The victims were among about 25 members of the sorority taking part in a 20-mile walkathon from Batesville to Oxford Thursday to raise money for the Kidney Foundation. They had covered about 15 miles of the trek on the shoulder of State Route 6.
Two escort vehicles with flashing lights were in front and behind the group when it reached the apex of a hill. The rear escort, a small foreign car, was driven by GARDNER.
Highway Patrol Trooper Steve McClure said a 1-ton truck pulling a hay baler topped the hill and tried to veer around the group but slammed into the rear of GARDNER'S car, hurling it into the walkers.
Trucker Robert Davis of Senatobia, Miss., told investigators GARDNER'S car cut into his path as he tried to avoid a collision.
Davis said he slammed on his brakes, but the vehicles collided.
"The truck, the car and everything went over into the girls," Trooper Ricky Roy said.

The Orlando Sentinel Florida 1987-03-28