Charges have been issued after a deadly car accident on December 30 killed six Mississippi Band of Choctaw tribal members.
Driver of the vehicle Duane John, 34, has been charged with six counts of DUI manslaughter after running off the road and into a rain-swelled creek on County Road 107 in Neshoba County, Mississippi 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia. Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell told the Associated Press that none of the nine passengers in the Dodge Durango were wearing seatbelts and none of the children, ranging in age from 18 months to 9 years, were in child restraints.
The five children in the car and 37-year-old Dianne Louise Lewis Chickaway drowned, while John and two other passengers, Deanna Jim, the children’s mother, and Dale Chickaway, Dianne’s husband, survived.
John, the children’s father, was arrested after being released from Neshoba County General Hospital on Monday, December 31. Waddell said bond was set for $150,000 for John, who was being held at Neshoba County Jail.
“Our entire family has experienced a terrible loss,” said a statement from Jim’s family. “We will truly miss all the children… Daisyanna, Duane, Bobby, Quinton and Kekambas. We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers coming our way. As this is a family matter we respectfully request time to grieve privately.”
A funeral is being held today for the children at a tribal building in Choctaw, Mississippi.
Misty Brescia Dreifuss, director, Office of Public Information for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, told Indian Country Today Media Network that four of the children attended Pearl River Elementary in Choctaw, Mississippi and that “parents are worried” about the effect the loss of these children will have on the students there.
"Pearl River Elementary School will have their own school counselor as well as one or two other school counselors on hand the first day back (January 7)," Dreifuss said. "The counselors will talk to the classroom that Daisyanna, Duane, Bobby and Quinton attended. They will also be available to any other student or teacher who may need their assistance." She said counseling services are also available at the Behavioral Health Center for anyone who should need it.
A funeral service will be offered for Chickaway tomorrow at Hopewell Baptist Church in Leake County.
“Dianne was a very loving and caring person and had many friends. We are struggling to understand this tragedy,” said a statement from her family. “We will miss her and also grieve for the other lives that were lost. She now joins a son she had lost many years ago. As this is a family matter we respectfully request time to grieve privately.”
John and Deanna Jim reportedly have two other children who were not involved in the accident.