Lake Butler crash claims another victim

Barbara Mann, center, is consoled at the scene of a three-vehicle crash south of Lake Butler, Fla., where seven children in a car were killed, Wednesday. Mann is the adoptive mother of six of the seven children. The car was driven by 15-year-old Cynthia Mann, who was accompanied by her siblings Elizabeth Mann, 15, Johnny Mann, 13, Heaven Mann, 3, Ashley Kenn, 13, Miranda Finn, who was either 8 or 9-years-old, and Anthony Lamb, who was almost two years old. Lamb was in the process of being adopted, said FHP Lt. Mike Burroughs said.

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 11:11 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 11:11 a.m.

The three-vehicle accident near Lake Butler that killed seven children in one family Wednesday afternoon, a few hours later claimed the life of another member of the family.

William Edward Scott, 62, of Hawthorne, the grandfather of some of the children who died, died of a heart attack while at the home of Barbara Mann, one of his two daughters. Barbara Mann is the stepmother or adoptive mother of five of the seven children who were killed.

Union County Under Sheriff Capt. Garry Seay said Scott collapsed about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday or midnight. He was taken to the Lake Butler Hospital Hand Surgery Center, where he was pronounced dead.

At a noon news conference Thursday in Lake Butler, Lt. William Leeper of the Florida Highway Patrol said it may be several weeks before charges are filed against Alvin E. Wilkerson, 31, of Jacksonville, the driver of the 2004 Freightliner tractor-trailer that caused the

accident. He said officials must await results of toxicology tests and the investigation and consult with the State Attorney's Office before charges can be filed.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested Wilkerson for a homicide in 1997. Further details of that case were not immediately available.

The crash occurred about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday on State Road 121 as students from three Lake Butler schools were returning home. Those who died were in a car that had stopped behind a school bus to let children off at a bus stop.

Police say Wilkerson failed to stop and crashed into the car carrying the seven children, who ranged in age from 20 months to 15 years.

Nine students on the bus and its driver were injured and taken to area hospitals. Seay said that as of 8 a.m. Thursday all the injured children still in hospitals were listed in stable condition. None of the hospitalized patients was expected to be released from the hospital Thursday, Union County officials said.

Eight people with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived on the scene Thursday morning to conduct their own investigation into the crash. NTSB's David Rayburn said it usually gets involved whenever a school bus or commercial truck is involved, and it may be six months before the agency issues a report.

Rayburn said slight "shadow marks" on the pavement suggest that Wilkerson's truck may have braked before impact. But more information will be needed from the truck's onboard "event" recorder to determine such things as whether he did in fact hit the brake and what his speed was.

Officials said there were no indications of drugs or alcohol inside the cab of Wilkerson's truck. In some news reports, Wilkerson was said to have been distracted at the time of the crash.

Meanwhile, Union County schools opened on schedule Thursday morning with dozens of counselors on hand to help students and staff members deal with their grief in the aftermath of the crash.

“Out hearts are just broken,” said Union County Schools Superintendent Carlton Faulk.

He said that while the investigation into the accident continued, the district decided it was best to get students back to school and their usual routines.

“But we are encouraging them and our teachers and all out other employees to speak with counselors if they need to,” Faulk said.

SR 121 was open to traffic Thursday morning, but Seay said it may be closed periodically during the day while officials try to re-enact the accident.

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