Relatives mourn 3 killed in casino bus crash

/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman who was among three people killed when a casino bus overturned on a rainy stretch of Mississippi road was taking a trip she had taken several times before: a girls' getaway with her best friend.

Glenda Stone, 53, of Goose Creek, was killed in the crash Sunday morning along with two other South Carolina women: Charlotte Carros, 63, of Eutawville, and Paula Kemp, 53, of Mount Pleasant, said Mississippi Highway Patrol Sgt. Leslie White.

"I literally can't bear it," Stone's husband of 35 years, Calvin Stone, said through tears in a phone interview Monday.

Stone was a volunteer children's advocate and mother of a 19-year-old and a 30-year-old, and had gone on trips to casinos with her friend at least three or four times, Calvin Stone said. When she last spoke to her husband the night before the crash, they chatted about their youngest son's upcoming final year at Clemson University and about plans for a romantic dinner when she returned, he said.

"She was the love of my life and her children and her family — everyone who knew her," he said. "She was absolutely the love and the light and the glue of our family."

More than 30 vacationers who survived the crash were boarding planes back to South Carolina on Monday, said Valerie Morris, a spokeswoman for Harrah's Entertainment. Six people who were on the bus remained hospitalized Monday, one in critical condition.

About a dozen of the passengers arrived at Charleston International Airport shortly after 1:30 p.m. on a corporate jet and declined through an airport spokeswoman to speak to members of the media. The passengers, one man with his arm wrapped in a green sling, were transported in an airport van from the plane to their cars. Another flight was expected later Monday.

The bus was the only vehicle involved in the accident, which was under investigation, White said. The bus's roof partially collapsed in the rollover. Its windows were knocked out and the sides were caked in mud. White said it was raining at the time of the accident, but he would not speculate on the cause.

Kemp, a mother of two and first-grade teacher at Mount Pleasant Academy, made the trip by herself to get away and relax before school started, said her husband, Hank.

"When it happened I kind of had a bad feeling when I didn't hear from her," he said in a telephone interview from his home. "She would have called to let me know she was all right."

Hank Kemp said his wife "loved her kids. She loved God and she loved to teach."

Carros was the retired former owner of a marina on Lake Marion, said Jennifer Berry, who bought the property with husband Billy and two other men. Carros still lived alone at a home there, she said, had no relatives in the area and traveled often.

"She was a nice person. Outgoing," Berry said. "She just retired this year when she sold the marina to us. She was just enjoying her retirement."

The bus belonged to Harrah's Tunica and was headed to the airport for a chartered flight to South Carolina when it flipped over in a median at an intersection, Tunica County spokesman Larry Liddell said. Many of the tourists live in South Carolina.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Sgt. Leslie White identified the driver as Larry D. Williams of Tunica, Miss. A woman who did not identify herself answered the phone at Williams' home said he would not discuss the accident and referred calls to Harrah's.

Those on the bus were among 131 people who flew to Mississippi on Friday night on a casino promotional trip, Morris said. Two other buses were headed for the airport at the time of the crash; their passengers flew back to South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Harrah's Entertainment operates 50 casinos worldwide, including three in Tunica: Harrah's Tunica, Horseshoe Casino and the Sheraton Casino & Hotel. The area along the Mississippi River in the northwest corner of the state is best known for its bustling casinos.