THOMSON --- Two of Jennifer Beckum's children were on the school bus with her when she was killed in a wreck Wednesday afternoon, and her husband, Mark, was among other firefighters who were first on the scene.
Beckum's 10-year-old son, Preston, a fourth-grader at Dearing Elementary School, suffered a fractured skull, a broken leg, a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen, authorities said. He underwent surgery Wednesday night at Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta, and his condition was upgraded from critical to fair Thursday. He also was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a room of his own.
After completing their routes Thursday morning, more than 50 school bus drivers in McDuffie County gathered for a prayer service to remember Beckum.
"She was a friend you could talk with and count on," said Teresa English, a 21-year veteran school bus driver. "Her friendship was sincere. She's truly going to be missed. We all loved her."
The 38-year-old driver was thrown from the bus shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, when she lost control on a rain-slicked dirt road and it struck an embankment. Beckum, a school bus driver with about 10 years' experience, was run over by the rear tires, according to Senior Trooper John Freeman of the Georgia State Patrol post in Grovetown.
Preston and Juan Aaron Acosta, 17, a junior at Thomson High School, also were thrown from the bus as it rounded a curve on the muddy road. Acosta was listed in good condition Thursday night at MCG.
The two boys were standing up on the bus before the wreck, Freeman said.
"We interviewed several students, and that's what they told us," said the trooper.
Seven other students, including Megan Beckum, 16, the daughter of Jennifer and Mark Beckum, were on board, but were not injured, authorities said.
During the bus drivers' prayer service, Jennifer Beckum was remembered as a "people person."
"Jennifer was a very caring person," said Edith Smith, transportation secretary. "She loved her children and other people's children. She loved to laugh. She made others feel good."
Smith recalled her friend's happy mood less than an hour before the accident.
"Jennifer walked into the office so bubbly," Smith said. "She was so excited because she had found herself a new part-time job, working in the admissions department of McDuffie Regional Medical Center."
Two hours later, an ambulance brought Jennifer Beckum to that same medical facility, where she was pronounced dead.