About 40 people traveling in a church bus on Thursday to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport never made it to their destination after their involvement in a crash in Fulton County that took the life of 17-year-old Sarah Harmening, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At around 4 p.m., a church bus from Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama was traveling east on Camp Creek Parkway in southern Fulton County when the driver “attempted to change lanes and collided with a Chrysler 200.”
The impact of the crash caused the driver of the church bus to lose control and veer off the road and into a median where it overturned and slide into a Mercedes sedan that was traveling westbound.
The Fulton County deputy fire chief, Jack Butler, stated that the Jaws of Life were used to rescue two people from the crash. He went on to say that the drivers of the Chrysler and Mercedes were transported to an area hospital, but they were discharged the following day.
It was reported that twenty-one people in the church bus who were on their way to a 10-day missionary trip in Botswana were injured and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, but Sarah was pronounced dead at the scene.
Deputy Police Chief Darryl Halbert stated that “investigators plan to do a reconstruction in the next day or so to find out exactly what happened. Seeing the vehicles overturned and just knowing the numbers of people on the bus, it’s kind of hard to divorce yourself from that. So, again we hate that there was a loss of life. We hope not to have those types of incidents, but we know that they do occur.”
Austin McBride, who was a passenger in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church bus and survived the crash, recalls the incident, saying that just moments before the Fulton County crash, he and his girlfriend were watching Netflix when the church bus began to sway.
Funeral set for Sarah Harmening, Alabama teen missionary killed in Atlanta bus crash https://t.co/xKpfhgSnS7 pic.twitter.com/fceHaGBgpR
“At first I was just thinking, ‘don’t break my neck. Don’t break my neck. Don’t break Emily’s neck. This has to be a dream. This has to be a nightmare,” said McBride, who was a chaperone for the youth’s group. “I just shut my eyes. When I opened my eyes, I was on the ground. There was smoke. The bus was in a wreck.”
Afterward, he stated that he began pulling passengers out of the bus. “There was one student,” he said. “He was bleeding. I had to take my sock off and wrap up his leg to keep him from bleeding too much.”
McBride said he is “trusting in God through this difficult time. While this is a huge tragedy, and the loss of Sarah is awful and heartbreaking, we have to be okay knowing that God’s will is beyond our understanding.”
After Sarah was killed in a Fulton County crash, her mother, Karen, said: “We asked for this opportunity to speak because our daughter, Sarah, was a gift to us. She loved the Lord with a love that was tangible.”
Family identifies church bus crash victim as 17-year-old Sarah Harmening https://t.co/OqUa2DVSsr pic.twitter.com/xi0yhtkjOH
Karen also read a portion of Sarah’s latest journal entry to the public, which states as follows:
“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad. I guess because I’m going to be gone so long, and I was a little uncomfortable. But I decided to read my Bible. I prayed and opened up to 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1.”
“I was just reminded of why I am here, and that God has called me here and has done this for a reason. I know he is going to do incredible things.”
Sarah’s funeral will be held on Monday.
Fulton County police officials say that no charges have been filed in the Fulton County crash.