HINESVILLE, GA (WTOC) - A close-knit Liberty County community is mourning the loss of a child killed in the tragic school bus crash Tuesday morning.
Bus number 1729 was headed toward Taylor Creek Elementary School in Hinesville when it ran off a dirt road, slid into a ditch and crashed into a tree near Georgia Highway 196, about four miles from the school. Five-year-old Cambria Shuman was killed in the wreck. She went to Liberty County Pre-K. Twenty-five others were sent to area hospitals.
Investigators continue to try to figure out what caused the deadly crash.
The memorial at the crash site continues to grow as folks go by even in the ran to add something to the tribute. None can shake the sorrow of losing a little girl so young in such a way. Dillon Parker went to school with the girl's dad. He says his mother drove the bus back then that carried them to school. He says the loss affects many.
"We've likely ridden down these same exact dirt roads. Everybody in the community's taking it the same way and looking for other ways they can show their support," Parker said.
Some of the pieces at the memorial are likely left by friends and family, and others by strangers who didn't know the Shumans but wanted to add to the tribute.
Most of the injured have been treated and released from local hospitals. Thirteen students were treated at Winn Army and released and 10 students taken to Liberty Regional were also released. At last check, one student and the bus driver remain at Memorial Health in Savannah. Investigators do not believe the driver was under the influence. They also do not believe the dense fog Tuesday caused the crash.
The Liberty County School System says it's just trying to put one foot in front of the other. They say they've gotten an outpouring of support from both the local community and people from across the state. They say other superintendents have reached out to their district offering any kind of support. They have grief counselors for the students, staff, and faculty of the Board of Education, school district, and the school system as a whole.
"It definitely has impacted them and they are going through their own ways to grieve. We want to make sure that you know we are in this together and we continue to lean on each other," said Patti Crane, Chief Academic Officer, Liberty County School System. "People have reached out from the entire state and beyond, so our communities have pulled together. The first responders and the law enforcement and the community members who came to the scene yesterday, we thank them so much for all they've done."
Crane says they've gotten a lot of questions from the community about how they can help. She says you can send any kind of well wishes or cards to the Board of Education and they'll be sure to get them to the people who need them.
Social media is exploding with people leaving prayers, thoughts, and memories. Cambria's parents tell us her favorite color was purple and she loved to pick flowers and give them away as gifts. They say she was full of life, a fighter, and wanted to be a ballerina. One of the most touching posts we found is from her father, Kris Shuman, who wrote a long message and shared personal pictures. In the post, he says Cambria's sister, Sage, was on the bus.
The girls were taken to two different hospitals, and when Kris asked Sage about Cambira, she replied::
Kris Shuman ended the post asking people not to avoid him.
Shuman also thanked everyone for sharing their memories of little Cambria.
The grandmother of two children who were involved in the crash says living in a close-knit community is wonderful support, but it makes the accident even harder to deal with. Jeneth Moody says when she heard about the crash, she was terrified.
"Just hysterics. Were they injured? Were they dead? Where were they?"
Moody says because of the tight-knit nature of the community, the students getting off the bus knew the first responders.
"Our sheriff and our law enforcement officers, our emergency personnel and our hospitals, they are the best. My granddaughter's gifted teacher from Taylor's Creek called her last night just to see if she was okay because that's the kind of teachers we have," she said. "If you are in a city where you know no one, I would think it has to be easier, but at the same time, when you can't get to the scene of an accident, you know your children are taken care of, you know. You know the best is being done for them."
We spoke with a local minister who searched the scriptures for his Wednesday night message, with the tragedy fresh on the minds of those in the area. He and other ministers rushed to the hospital when they heard about the crash.
"In a small community like this, you hear of something like that and you start wondering which church members are involved, which children are involved," said Pastor Gabe Gill, Gum Branch Baptist Church.
Pastor Gill says church members or not, they served hurting families as best they could. He spent time with Cambria's family and talked to other parents at the hospital. He says the tragedy reinforces that death can happen at any age. He says faith offers a hope to deal with the sorrow.
"The Bible says that God is the god of all comfort and grace and he is close to those who seek after him," the pastor said.
Pastor Gill says he and other local ministers will do all they can to comfort these families through this tough time.
Investigators are now taking a close look at whether there was an underlying issue with the bus.