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Day Camp Van Flips On I-65, Injures 10

Jul 17, 2004 | The Birmingham News A van wreck on Interstate 65 near the Chilton-Shelby county line Friday sent nine children and one adult to area hospitals. Six were treated and released and four were being held overnight.

Four of the children, ages 9 and 10, were taken to Children's Hospital and were listed in fair condition Friday, said Patrick Rimmer, hospital spokesman. He said they were admitted with head, facial and abdominal injuries.

The driver was Tammy Milstead, 38, of Montgomery. She and five children, whose injuries were less serious, were taken to Baptist Shelby in Alabaster, where they were treated and released, said April Holcomb, spokeswoman for the hospital.

The wreck involved a 15-passenger 2004 Chevrolet Express 3500 van that was taking children from the Kidz First day camp in Montgomery to Visionland theme park in Bessemer for the day.

The van, traveling north on I-65 in northern Chilton County, rolled several times. The cause of the wreck is still under investigation, said Dorris Teague, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. at mile marker 225, Teague said. Of the 15 people traveling in the van, nine children and the driver were hurt.

Fifteen-passenger vans have come under fire in the last five years over safety concerns. Typically, these vans have seating for a driver and 14 passengers. They are widely used by churches and community organizations, but have a high risk of rollover accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The administration has issued several warnings against using such vans, especially to transport children.

NHTSA research has shown that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of passengers increases. The likelihood of a rollover when a van is fully loaded is about five times greater than when the vehicle contains only a driver, said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to the NHTSA, the rears of the vans extend 4 to 5½ feet beyond the rear wheels, and any loading of five or more people or luggage and equipment causes instability during emergency maneuvers such as sudden turns. This causes the vans to fishtail, and because they are top-heavy and overloaded in the rear, they are prone to roll over, Tyson said.

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