Five children and one adult died early Saturday morning when the SUV they were riding in veered off an eastern Mississippi road and dove into an overflowing creek, authorities said.
The victims drowned after the Dodge Durango crashed 20 miles southeast of the town of Philadelphia.
The children were identified as Dasyanna John, 9; Duane John, 8; Bobby John, 7; Quinton John, 4; and 18-month-old Kekaimeas John. The one adult that drowned in the wreckage was Diane Chickaway, 37. The mother and father of the children, Deanna Jim and Dewayne John, survived the crash, but the father remains hospitalized for hypothermia and water inhalation. Chickaway’s husband, Dale Chickaway, also survived.
Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell reported that none of the passengers appeared to have been wearing their seat belts. The driver, Dewayne John, was tested for drunk driving, but the official reports have yet to come in.
All passengers were members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and lived in the Pearl River community.
“It’s always sad to hear of the death of a tribal member, but today 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.
Authorities are uncertain of what exactly caused the SUV to leave the road, but Waddell said that weather was not a factor, although recent rain contributed to the high water level of the creek.