Family, community devastated by fatal crash and fire - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Family, community devastated by fatal crash and fire at middle school

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Rosa Byse, 59 (credit: Byse family) Rosa Byse, 59 (credit: Byse family)
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BUENA VISTA, GA -

Family and friends gathered at the Macon County home of Rosa Byse, 59, to comfort each other after her disturbing death.  She was pronounced at the scene of a one vehicle crash that ignited the old Marion County Middle School and burned half of it to the ground

"I was just shocked, I couldn't believe it, because it was late night when they called me," said her sister-in-law, Lillie Williams. "It was about 12:30 a.m., and my sister called and told me that [Byse] had an accident and she didn't make it.  I just couldn't believe it.  And then when they said she was driving real fast, I said, ‘Oh no, that's not true.'  We always teased her about her driving.  Because, when she got to 60 mph, she would say, 'Oh, I'm going too fast.' And she would slow down. So, she was not a fast driver.  I just said, something must have happened to her." 

Police are investigating whether a medical episode preceded the crash. Her three-year-old grandson was also in the car, but he escaped with minor injuries thanks to a car seat.

Family said Rosa Byse loved being around kids. She taught at the Macon County Elementary School and she was also active in the church, working with children during summer vacation for bible study.  At the time of the crash, Byse was picking up her grandson to bring him to her home in Ideal, Georgia from his parents' house in Buena Vista for the weekend.

 "She would always go pick him up.  Her son, he drives trucks, so that's how she was in Buena Vista.  So she would go pick him up and then keep him so many days, and the other grandmother would keep him so many days," said Williams.

 Middle school students are attending classes at the brand new consolidated high school that was dedicated in 2012. The building on Burkhalter Avenue is seeing less use but it was home to the school's Performance Academy and they lost everything in the fire.  Students stood outside the building Saturday taking inventory of items lost. 

 "Everything inside of it is completely gone.  Nothing can be brought out of it.  Most of the wardrobe, like the costumes that we used, were used in the final show.  We were all able to wear them and now seeing them all gone was kind of sad." said Marion County High School senior, Antwonicia Walker.

 "Marion County is a really tight knit community and so many people have a sentimental attachment to this building. It's just so sad that the lady who lost her life here took her last breath in a place that we were trying to revive for the community and put life back into.  It's just a really tragic event," said Lynn McAllister, Performance Academy Director.

Funeral arrangements for Byse have not yet been established.

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