14 Illinois Bus Crash Victims Remembered by Family and Friends

14 Illinois Bus Crash Victims Remembered by Family and Friends

News Oct 10, 2004
Grief-stricken relatives gathered in churches and homes to mourn the deaths of 14 Chicago area people killed in a tour-bus crash in Arkansas, while others prayed in hospital waiting rooms for the injured survivors of the accident.

The victims were traveling to a casino in Mississippi when the bus wandered off Interstate 55 in northeastern Arkansas early Saturday. Fifteen passengers remained hospitalized Sunday night at hospitals in Little Rock, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., many in critical condition with injuries that included collapsed lungs, broken hips and head wounds.

Among the dead was Cornelia Roseborough, of suburban Harvey, a retired hospital worker who liked to dance.

On Sunday, Roseborough's sister, said she was a proud woman with an enviable hat collection.

``She was a foxy lady, even at 76,'' said Verline Cottrell.

The journey from Chicago to a Mississippi gambling town was a twice-a-year tradition for the group of 30 friends and relatives aboard the bus. Survivors said it was as much about visiting, laughing and reminiscing as it was about trying to strike it rich at the Tunica, Miss., casinos.

Willie Walters, whose brother owned the bus, said even the seating on the bus was arranged ``family style,'' so passengers could face one another to chat and share snacks.

``It's just neighborhood and community,'' Brenda Clay of Memphis, Tenn., said Sunday in the waiting room of a hospital. ``There's still good old American communities where people get together and do things together.''

Clay was at the Elvis Presley Trauma Center of the Regional Medical Center in Memphis because her relative, 62-year-old Herbert Redmond, was taken there after the accident at 5 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 55 in northeast Arkansas, about 25 miles north of Memphis.

Billy Lyons and his wife, Maxie, had been making the trips to the gambling hotbed of Tunica, Miss., for the past decade - more to spend time with their friends than to try to get lucky in the casinos, said their son, John Coney.

``They enjoy life. They were very family-oriented,'' Coney said.

Billy Lyons, a blind, retired steel mill worker, asked for his wife when rescuers found him, said Assistant Fire Chief John Burns of West Memphis, one of the emergency responders.

``We asked, 'What was your wife wearing?' and he said he was blind and he didn't know. He couldn't tell us.''

Maxie Lyons, 64, was also among those killed. Her 63-year-old husband suffered broken legs.

One of those injured, Theophilus Cannon, was unable to speak to his sister, Octavia Eddings. But he wrote on a notepad: ``I feel better.''

His fiancee, Shirley Fox, told Eddings she recalled feeling ``a big bump'' on the bus and saw Cannon go flying past her.

``She saw another guy go to the left. She said it was an instant. There was no warning. Nothing,'' Eddings said. ``She said the bus just started automatically tumbling.''

The owner of the mom-and-pop tour operation, Roosevelt Walters of Chicago, lost his wife, brother and stepson in the crash. Walters' wife, Marean, 67, arranged the trip for the group, and his brother, Herbert, 67, was the driver. Walters' stepson, John Hawkins, 49, was also killed.

``In one instant, he lost it all,'' the Rev. James Meeks told his congregation at Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side.

Before his sermon, Meeks said the group consisted of family members and close friends.

``It seemed like a tight-knit group of people who were fun-loving,'' Meeks said.

Investigators spent Sunday trying to determine whether Herbert Walters fell asleep at the wheel, causing the bus to drift off the road, or if there was a mechanical problem with the bus.

Eddings said relatives and friends of the victims were still trying to come to grips with what happened.

``I feel very fortunate my brother's life has been spared,'' she said.

In his Chicago home, Isaac Clark looked at the earrings left on a table by his wife, Sandra, 62, when she left on her fatal trip.

``I just keep expecting her to come back, I really do,'' said Isaac, her husband of 42 years. ``I keep thinking she's coming home.''

The critical-care waiting room at The Med's trauma center was heavily peopled Sunday with survivor families and friends. Two tables were laden with lunch meat and bread, potato chips and cookies brought to the hospital by two women from the Memphis suburb of Bartlett. They didn't want their names published, but had simply come to help.

Clay and another Redmond relative, Beverly Clay-Wilson of Chicago, helped comfort Redmond's 82-year-old mother, a Memphis resident.

The elderly woman occupied a lounge chair in the waiting room, one of 30 upholstered in a flower-print fabric that were scattered around the room. She clutched an aluminum cane, tears appearing in her eyes as she talked with others.

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