Dad charged in wreck that killed his 5 kids

January 2, 2013 in News, Statewide News, Top Stories

By Monica Land

Funeral services for children is Wednesday

Rescuers work to pull a Dodge Durango SUV from Sipsey Creek in Neshoba County Saturday after it plunged into the water. Sheriff Tommy Waddell said emergency personnel units from several surrounding areas assisted in the search. (Photo courtesy of The Neshoba Democrat)

PHILADELPHIA – A 34-year-old man has been charged with 6 counts of DUI manslaughter after crashing his vehicle into a creek killing his five children and a family friend.

Duane John was taken into custody Monday, Dec. 31, two days after the deadly wreck on County Road 107 just inside Neshoba County.

Neshoba County’s sheriff, Tommy Waddell, said John – who was also injured in the accident – was arrested after he was released from a local hospital on Monday.

His bond has been set at $150,000.

Waddell said the accident occurred around 12:30 a.m., Dec. 29 and that John was driving a Dodge Durango SUV when it left the roadway and crashed into Sipsey Creek.

Waddell said a motorist witnessed the vehicle leaving the roadway and immediately called 911.

“They saw the vehicle when it plunged into the waterway,” Waddell said. “And we had a good response time. We were the first ones on the scene.”

Waddell said the SUV was completely submerged in the creek – which was well above its normal stage due to recent rains.

“It couldn’t been seen,” he said. “We had to use a dive team from the Philadelphia Fire Department to go down and locate the vehicle.”

Waddell said the creek was about 10 feet deep.

As he and other emergency personnel units waited on the bridge for divers to rescue the occupants, Waddell said they were hopeful it would still be a rescue mission.

“We all were saying a prayer and just asking for a miracle,” he said.

But after hours of searching, it slowly became evident that a rescue had turned into a recovery effort as one by one, the bodies of the five children were carried to the bank.

Pronounced dead at the scene were: Dasyanna John, 9; Duane John, 8; Bobby John, 7; Quinton John, 4; and Kekaimeas John, 18 months. Also recovered was 37-year-old Diane Chickaway.

Waddell said riding in the SUV was also the mother of the children, Duane John’s wife, 28-year-old Deanna Jim, and Diane Chickaway’s husband, Dale Chickaway.

Deanna and Dale were not injured.

None of the passengers were wearing seatbelts, Waddell said.

All nine occupants were Choctaw Tribal members from the Pearl River Community, the largest Indian Reservation in the county.

Waddell said the occupants were leaving Pearl River and heading to the Conehatta Community in Newton County, another Indian Reservation.

Waddell said that while there were skid marks on the roadway, weather was never considered a factor in the accident.

Charges on John were dependent on toxicology results.

Funeral services for the victims were arranged by Choctaw Tribal members. Services for the children are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 2 p.m. in the Pearl River Community’s facility building, and a service for Diane Chickaway is planned for Thursday, Jan. 3, at 2 p.m. at the Hopewell Baptist Church in the Standing Pine Community.

Choctaw Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson said the tragedy has been a great shock for the Choctaw Community.

“It’s always sad to hear of the death of a tribal member, but…our tribe experienced a great tragedy with the loss of six beautiful Choctaw souls. I cannot begin to imagine what the friends, relatives and loved ones are feeling,” Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson said in a statement.

Tribal spokeswoman Misty Dreifuss said word of the deaths spread quickly throughout the 10,000-member tribe and that members “definitely have been hit pretty hard.”

“It’s just a sad day,” Waddell said. “This has really shaken the community. It’s a tragic thing whenever lives are lost, but for so many in one family and the Chickaway family is so sad. Even the rescue workers were saying no matter how many times you visit a site where tragic things have happened, when you see a loss of it life, it touches all of us.”