- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

DOUGLAS, Ga. (AP) — Volunteer firefighter David Varnedore rushed to the scene of a car accident prepared to help strangers in need. Then he came across the body of his own son. And then the body of his elder daughter.

Mr. Varnedore’s two children were among five youngsters killed Saturday night when a car on a winding road struck an all-terrain vehicle the children had crowded onto during a birthday party. A sixth child was critically injured.

When Mr. Varnedore got to the scene, his son Dustin, 11, was lying face down in a pool of blood. “There was no hope for him,” Mr. Varnedore recalled Monday, gasping with emotion between every word.

A few feet away, Mr. Varnedore found his daughter, Kayla, 13.

“My daughter was laying face up and I did CPR on her to no avail,” said Mr. Varnedore, who lives only a mile away.

The other victims were Lindsay Joiner, 13 of Douglas; Courtney Arsenault, 10, of Alma; and the ATV’s driver, Coranne Megan Nelson, 14. Another partygoer, Heather Bass, 13, was listed in critical condition Monday.

The car’s driver, Amanda Michelle Troupe, 29, of Ambrose, could face charges, investigators said. They were awaiting the results of blood tests on whether she had been drinking.

Miss Troupe, whose car crossed the center line before hitting the four-wheeler, was injured in the crash, but her condition was not immediately disclosed. Two other persons in the car sustained minor injuries, police said.

Residents of the rural area said the children had attended the Nelson girl’s birthday party and decided to celebrate afterward by going for a ride on her ATV.

The off-road vehicle was built for one adult rider, said Gordy Wright, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Safety. None of the youngsters was wearing a helmet and the Nelson girl should not have been driving the vehicle on a public road.

“It’s just an awful tragedy,” Mayor Max Lockwood said. “All the families hope this leads to a better understanding of safety. The kids were in a rural neighborhood, and children just like to hop on those things and ride around in the country.”

Mr. Varnedore returned to the scene Monday afternoon with his parents, Carol and David Varnedore Sr. About a dozen others gathered there to mourn the young victims.

Dots of orange paint, left by the accident investigators, traced the car’s skid marks and blue flags marked the spots where bodies were found. Painted orange circles showed where the car hit the ATV and where key parts of the vehicles had landed.

“You see that spot of blood? That was my son,” said the 30-year-old truck driver who became a volunteer firefighter when he was 16. “You see this spot of orange paint? That was my daughter.”

Mr. Varnedore and his wife also have a 2-year-old daughter.

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