Originally created 08/12/97

Crash prompts local colleges to review transportation policies



One college's tragedy became other schools' eye-openers Monday as Augusta-area universities scrutinized their travel rules after Sunday's deadly wreck of a west Georgia college van.

The crash, which killed a State University of West Georgia coach and cheerleader, prompted swift changes at University of South Carolina-Aiken, which will draft new rules next Monday for traveling teams, said Lindy Brown, sports information director. The athletic department follows the university's travel policy but does not have its own rules about trips.

"We will soon, in relation to this accident that did happen," Mr. Brown said. "We just want to make sure that we are careful with our athletes in the future."

Paine College also is reviewing its rules as a result of the wreck, said spokeswoman Lorraine Morris. In a written statement, Ms. Morris said Paine College leaders believe most colleges will double-check their policies as a result of the crash.

The West Georgia van, en route to a Myrtle Beach, S.C., training camp, was traveling more than 90 mph when it flipped after a tire shredded, state troopers said. The accident occurred around 7:35 a.m. just outside Crawfordville on Interstate 20.

Driver and coach Stephanie Shaw, 27, of Carrollton was killed instantly, while Deandre Hamilton, 20, of Ashburn, died at Medical College of Georgia Hospital Sunday afternoon. Eleven other cheerleaders were injured in the wreck. None of the victims was wearing a seat belt, police said.

USC-Aiken's current policy on out-of-town trips in university vehicles includes checks of each driver's record and mandates a university official go with students traveling beyond the Augusta-Columbia area. Each van has a sign reading, "Safety belt use required in this vehicle," posted, said Deidre Martin, a USC-Aiken spokeswoman.

But, unlike Paine College, the USC-Aiken rules don't include a clause about following the speed limit and traffic rules.

"I think that's something that needs to be in there," Mr. Brown said. "I have been on trips in my past where there has been some speeding."

Paine College's guidelines include a maintenance inspection of each vehicle before a trip, suggesting overnight stays for longer trips and encouraging passengers to wear seat belts, Ms. Morris' statement said.

"We insist that drivers maintain the speed limit," Ms. Morris wrote. "In the event they do not and receive a traffic violation, they are held responsible."

Augusta State University officials did not respond to several phone messages left at various offices Monday seeking comment. President Bill Bloodworth and spokeswoman Marian Cheek were off campus Monday, while Athletic Director Clint Bryant did not return two phone messages and Fred Barnabei, vice president for business and student affairs, referred questions to Ms. Cheek and Mr. Bryant.