Albion, MI Two Truck Collision Kills Eleven, July 1997


Albion, Mich. (AP) - The Jacksons, the Oranges and the Scotts weren't widely known in this town of 10,000 residents nestled in between acres of corn fields and farms in south central Michigan.
But the victims of a traffic accident that left 11 in the families dead and two children clinging to life, will be considered family just the same.
George Williamson, who owns the ABC Copy store, said that's just the way Albion operates.
"I don't know anyone in the accident personally, but I'm sure they'll be treated like family," Williamson said.
"Whether you know them or not doesn't matter in Albion. When someone needs something, it gets done."
ELAINE JACKSON, 24, was driving her five children, LETECHIA SCOTT, 19, and her three children and three young cousins home from a summer outing on Swains Lake when her pickup truck went through a stop sign on a rural road and collided with a dump truck. Eight children who died were in the truck bed under a fiberglass shell.
The Tuesday evening accident in Jackson County's Concord Township, 80 miles west of Detroit, was the worst in state history, state officials said.
Funeral arrangements for the JACKSON children, ranging in age from 3 to 9, are pending. Terry Jackson and his family have asked the Michigan Family Independence Agency to pay for the children's funeral, the Detroit News reported today.
As news of the accident spread, the people of Albion began calling one another to see what could be done to help the JACKSONS and two other local families whose loved ones died in the crash.
A local grocery store used some gallon ice cream containers plastered with pictures of the JACKSON family and got them out to area businesses to raise money for the funeral. A bank helped the family set up a fund for donations. The local Kmart is donating burial clothes, the News said.
"I don't think there are too many in Albion who would refuse to give," said Martha Gache, who works at the downtown Subway sandwich shop. "Everyone's full of remorse about this."
Sue Marcos, president of the Albion Area Chamber of Commerce, said she's been inundated with calls from people in the business community wanting to help the families.
"Our community historically is very giving. Albion is an extremely friendly small town and with all our diversity, we get along," Marcos said.
Jackson stood outside his mother's small pink house Wednesday, taking stock of his life after the crash that wiped out his entire family.
For the unemployed, uninsured Jackson, 33, it all looked pretty bleak.
"I should have spent more time with them. The Lord wanted me to live his way, not on the streets," said Jackson, who was released recently from a drug rehab clinic, but said he went back to using drugs."
"I can't believe they're gone."
Terron Scott, 21, Ms. Scott's husband, has been in a state prison since June 1996 serving two consecutive terms on drug-related offenses, the Detroit Free Press reported today. Family members were asking prison officials to allow him to be escorted by guards to the funeral.
An accident reconstruction team is trying to figure out how fast the vehicles were going and whether MS. JACKSON failed to see the stop sign or did not yield the right of way.
MS. JACKSON'S driver's license had been suspended earlier this month.
Authorities said the dump truck driver, Joseph Caldwell, 27, of Albion, submitted to blood and drug tests, was questioned and released. The sheriff said there was no evidence of alcohol involvement. Caldwell was not injured.
Jackson said the dirt roads of Concord Township were unfamiliar to his wife, but she took Schultz Road because she had so many kids crammed into the truck that she worried about an accident.
"She didn't want them out on the highway," said Jackson, who lost his 4-year-old son, Tyree, when he was hit by a car on May 27. A 17-year-old neighbor faces arraignment Aug. 8 on a negligent homicide charge in that case.
Tuesday's accident caused concerns among some state law makers who noted that Michigan has no law prohibiting or limiting riders in pickup truck beds. Such measures have failed before.
"The Legislature simply has to take this issue on. The body count is too high," said Rep. Frank Fitzgerald, R-Grand Ledge.
But authorities said it wouldn't have made a difference in this case because the crash impact was so severe.
ADAM ORANGE, 9, and DeANDRE SCOTT, 8 months old, remained listed in critical condition this morning at C. S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, hospital spokesman Pete Barkey said.
Both had head injuries that were considered life threatening and had broken legs, arms and numerous other injuries, the hospital said.
Others who died were:
LUKE JACKSON and his twin brother, ISIAH, both 8.
EDWARD and ASHLY ORANGE lived in Saginaw and were visiting Albion. They were Ms. Scott's cousins, as was ADAM ORANGE.
MS. JACKSON and MS. SCOTT were in the cab as was victim SIERRA JACKSON, 6.

The Daily Globe Ironwood Michigan 1997-07-31