The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians lost six tribal members after a tragic car crash on Sunday, December 30.
“It’s always sad to hear of the death of a tribal member, but today our tribe experienced a great tragedy with the loss of six beautiful Choctaw souls. I cannot begin to imagine what the friends, relatives and loved ones are feeling,” Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson said in a statement.
Five of those souls were children identified by Deputy County Coroner Marshall Prince as 9-year-old Daisyanna John, 8-year-old Duane John, 7-year-old Bobby John, 4-year-old Quinton John, and 18-month-old Kekambas John, reported the Associated Press. The five children were siblings and their father, Duane John, was driving the vehicle. He survived but is being hospitalized for hypothermia and water inhalation. The children’s mother, Deanna Jim, also survived, but family friend Dianne Louise Lewis Chickaway, 37, also walked on. Chickaway’s husband, Dale Chickaway, survived the crash.
The nine were traveling on County Road 107 in Neshoba County, Mississippi 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia when the SUV ran off the left side of the road and into a rain-swelled creek.
"It looked like he has just run off the road and went into the water," Prince told the AP. "It was deep and swift. The vehicle was completely submerged."
Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell told the AP that there was no ice on the road and it was not raining at the time of the accident, but John is being tested to see if he was under the influence of alcohol. The results are not yet in and charges have not yet been filed. The sheriff also reported to the AP that none of the nine people in the SUV were wearing seatbelts and none of the children were in child restraints.
According to the Clarion Ledger, a funeral for the children will be held Wednesday at the Pearl River Facility Building in Choctaw, Mississippi. A funeral for Chickaway is scheduled for Thursday at Hopewell Baptist Church in Leake County.
The accident is still being investigated. “We are in the process of determining what contributed to the crash. Once that information is compiled, all the results are turned over to the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department," Master Sgt. Johnny Poulos, a Highway Patrol spokesman, told the Clarion Ledger Monday.