Car slams into crowd outside Alabama school

FAIRFIELD, AL Debrah Johnson, 46, died after undergoing surgery at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Fairfield Police Sgt. Matthew Romei said. At least three of the children were in a hospital Friday night, ranging from fair to serious condition.

Police said the driver was a 67-year-old woman who was picking up a student at Forest Hills Middle School. Her identity has not been released by police, who questioned her and planned a routine drug and alcohol test.

"As it stands now we believe the adult female driver was pulling out of a parking space and a child darted out in front of the vehicle," Romei said. It appeared the woman mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brakes and she hit another car before driving into the crowd.

"Unfortunately there was a madhouse of people out there because it happened at the end of school," Romei said. "For such a tragedy to happen, it happened at the worst possible time and place."

The driver's 11-year-old grandson, Cheyenne Payne, told The Birmingham News she came to pick him up from school. She was trying to avoid one child playing in the area when she hit the gas instead of the brake.

"I just called the Lord's name and prayed," he said.

Dedrick Peterson, the woman's son, came to the scene later.

"She was in shock. She was more worried about the people than she was worried about herself," Peterson told the newspaper. "We are just praying that everybody recovers."

Romei said officers would be at the scene throughout the weekend and school dismissal procedures would be reviewed.

"I'm sure the school system will get together with us to look at if we need to change anything in the future," he said. "I'm just not sure there was anything that could have been done to prevent this."

Six children were taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, spokesman Garland Stansell said. Two of them were in serious condition and one was in fair condition with a broken leg, he said. Three who suffered scrapes and bruises were discharged.

Princeton Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd would only confirm that the hospital received two children from the accident. Dodd said she could not provide a condition.

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