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Accident involving county school bus claims life of 91-year-old Erwin woman

By Richard Rourk

An accident involving a Unicoi County school bus and a sports utility vehicle on Friday afternoon claimed the life of a 91-year-old Erwin woman and resulted in multiple minor injuries.

At about 2:40 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, a Unicoi County school bus carrying eighth-grade students was involved in an accident when a Ford Escape SUV rear-ended the bus.

Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Stacy Wigand investigated. According to the THP accident report, Georgia Arrowood, 91, Erwin, a passenger in the 2010 Ford Escape, died from injuries sustained in the accident.

Adam Copas, executive director of Unicoi County EMS, said that Arrowood was transported to Unicoi County Hospital before she was transferred via WINGS Air Rescue to Johnson City Medical Center. 

According to the THP report, the Ford Escape, driven by Thomas Cox, 70, Erwin, failed to stop and rear-ended the school bus. Tests for alcohol and drug use were requested of Cox, who was also injured in the accident. Results from the tests are not yet known. 

Arrowood was seated in the right rear seat of the Ford Escape at the time of the accident. The report indicated that she was wearing a seat belt.

Another passenger in the vehicle, Teresa Cox, 66, Erwin, was seated in the front passenger seat and also suffered injuries. According to the THP report, she was also wearing a seatbelt. 

The report stated that the 2018 Bluebird bus was traveling on State Highway 81 South. The bus, which was being driven by Christopher Hatcher, 46, Erwin, approached a railroad crossing, stopped and then began to pull out from the railroad crossing when the Ford Escape collided with the rear of the school bus. 

Forty students were passengers aboard the bus. Four students suffered minor injuries and treatment was provided by local EMS personnel. 

“We are thankful our students weren’t seriously injured,” said John English, Unicoi County Director of Schools.

The driver and the teachers on the bus were also evaluated for injuries. 

English reported that there was significant damage to the school bus. 

“Our prayers are with the family of the other vehicle involved,” English said. “Just a really unfortunate accident. I am grateful to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Erwin Police Department, Erwin Fire and Rescue, Unicoi County EMS and all first responders. who showed up and got on top of the situation so quickly.”

The report notes that charges in the accident are pending.