Fatal car accident, fire destroys Marion County school

Published: Jun. 23, 2013 at 6:05 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2013 at 2:41 PM EDT
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BUENA VISTA, GA - First responders say if they arrived even seconds later, they would have been dealing with two fatalities instead of one.

At about 8 p.m. Friday, witnesses said they watched a woman run a stop sign and crash through a wall into Marion County Middle School on Burkhalter Avenue without braking.

Officials confirm Rosa Byse, 59, from Ideal, Georgia, was at the wheel.  Police are investigating whether she was having a medical episode.  Strapped in a car seat was the woman's three-year-old grandson.  Byse was pronounced dead on the scene, and if the child had not been securely fastened, he may not have escaped with minor injuries.

Norman Stubbs, a volunteer firefighter with the Buena Vista Department lives only a couple houses down from the school.  He was one of the first people one scene.

"My daughter-in-law came in there and she was telling me somebody had a wreck.  So I ran down here, because I thought it was going to be right here at the intersection, and it wasn't.  The car was actually flipped upside down in the school.  The child was screaming so that's the one I went for first. I got the baby out, and then my son and the coroner got the lady out," said Stubbs.

Less than 30 seconds after rescuing the child and removing the woman's body, the car went up in flames and set the rest of the building on fire.  Crews were able to extinguish the blaze with minimal damage, but hours later, the fire started back up.  It was that second time around that most of the building was destroyed.

"There were three roofs inside that old building.  It had to have been from somewhere, bad wires in the first fire, up in that attic area.  Got down to the second hallway there and we had a lot of fire, so we called for mutual aid," said Buena Vista Fire Chief, Kenneth Burns.

Burns estimates thirty total fire trucks were on scene from surrounding cities and counties.  By Saturday afternoon, some firefighters had been on the scene for 16 hours.  Police said the child has been released from the hospital in good condition.

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

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