First responders from at least five Georgia counties responded to an Oct. 13 collision between a tractor trailer and a tour bus at the intersection of Highway 515 North and Whitestone Road. Photo by MICHAEL ANDREWS

Tour bus driver headed to casino killed in crash

    Elijay, Ga. – A collision Thursday morning between a tour bus headed for Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy and a semi truck crossing Highway 515 from Whitestone Road left one dead and 43 injured, reported Gilmer Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
    “The tour bus was headed north and collided with the rear of the tractor trailer,” Pritchett said.
    The injured were transported by ambulance to hospitals in Fannin, Jasper and Canton. One person was transported by air.
    “We had four individuals that were uninjured,” Pritchett said.
    The driver of the bus passed away at the scene of the accident, Pritchett confirmed. No other information was being released about the fatality or the destination of the tour bus. Channel 2 Action News Atlanta is reporting that the bus was bound for a Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel.
    Both lanes of Highway 515 remained closed as of this afternoon. Traffic was being diverted off the main highway to Old Highway 5, Talona Mountain Road and other nearby side roads.
    The majority of passengers aboard the bus were elderly, Pritchett said, but it was unknown at the time whether they belonged to a  specific group or church.
    “The curb that comes up to that intersection has a limited sight distance and it’s somewhere we see accidents that can be challenging pretty often,” Pritchett said about the intersection where an elderly woman was killed just last March after pulling into the path of a car traveling north on Highway 515.
    EMS first responders from Gilmer, Pickens, Fannin, Dawson and Murray counties, as well as officers from local police agencies and the Georgia State Patrol, responded to today’s accident.
    “We’re very thankful for the response from those surrounding jurisdictions,” Pritchett added. “(The response) was handled very quickly and in a very professional manner by all agencies that were involved.”