SHREVEPORT, La. — A Baptist church’s youth minister is recovering at home from injuries he received July 12 when the bus carrying his youth group to a Georgia camp rolled over on a Mississippi interstate highway, injuring 23 passengers — one fatally.
Jason Matlack, minister of youth at First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., was released July 18 from Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Miss. He continues to recuperate at his home, where he and his wife, Sarah, are accepting visitors on a limited basis.
Matlack fractured his C7 vertebra and had artery injuries that caused serious loss of blood. His pastor, Greg Hunt, said it took doctors a while to figure out why he was losing so much blood and to get him stabilized.
One of the teenagers hurt in the accident, Sarah Smith, went home from the hospital July 15. In the wreck’s aftermath, she had been taken to University Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., with fractures in the neck and upper back.
Two victims were expecting to be transported to Shreveport for more treatment.
Kyle Kelley, an adult sponsor on the trip who works for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Louisiana, hoped to be moved July 20 to an intermediate-care facility. His injuries included broken bones.
Lauren Murchison was scheduled to be taken to a rehabilitation facility in Shreveport today (July 21). She had surgeries to repair fractures to areas including her femur, clavicle and face.
Maggie Lee Henson, daughter of a member of the church’s ministerial staff, remained in critical condition a week after the accident, suffering from severe head injuries. She has gained some stability, but as of July 20 doctors continued to be concerned about fluctuations in her intracranial pressure (ICP), a critical benchmark in treatment and recovery from brain injury.
“She continues to be in a very fragile state of health,” Hunt said. He said it is still “way too early” to be talking about long-term recovery. “Right now it’s a survival question,” he said.
One youth, Brandon Ugarte, 14, died on the way to the hospital after being ejected from the bus. The accident took place when the vehicle blew a tire and rolled three times in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20/59 near the Alabama Welcome Center, on the Alabama/Mississippi state line.
Most of the 17 youth and six adults injured in the accident were treated and released the night of the wreck. They were headed toward a camp sponsored by Passport, a ministry partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, held on the campus of Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
First Baptist Church in Shreveport has established an accident-assistance fund to help with family expenses related to the accident.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)