DPS: Charges could be filed against driver of Trinity ISD van involved in fatal crash

DPS: Charges could be filed against driver of Trinity ISD van involved in fatal crash
Journey Magness (Source: Trinity County Sheriff's Office)
Journey Magness (Source: Trinity County Sheriff's Office)

TRINITY, TX (KTRE) - A Texas Department of Transportation crash report on the fatal two-vehicle crash involving a Trinity ISD van and a pickup that occurred on Dec. 1 has information that indicates that charges could possibly be filed against the driver of the van, pending the final results of the investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"This is an ongoing active investigation that is being conducted," DPS Lt. Craig Cummings said. "There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered by investigators."

Cummings said state law says all passengers younger than 8 years old are required to be in the appropriate child safety seat system unless they are taller than 4-foot-9 whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle.

Cummings said that the driver of the Trinity ISD van may be in violation of the law if any of the children were shorter that 4-foot-9, adding that charges may be filed against Chandra Wheeler, 55, of Trinity, pending the final outcome of the investigation.

"We are trying to determine if the five year-old and seven year-old were under the height," Cummings said. "The report is incomplete but has been turned in. We are still looking for answers, so we can turn our finding into the District Attorney."

One child, 7-year-old Journey Magness died because of injuries she suffered in the wreck. She was the daughter of Deputy David Magness with the Trinity County Sheriff's Office.

According to a statement from the DPS, saying five children from the van were taken to a Trinity hospital by ambulance. Three other children in the van, as well as the driver, were taken by private vehicle to the ambulance for precautionary measures. Three of the injured children were treated and released.
Three children from the other vehicle were also taken to a Trinity hospital, two by ambulance and one by private vehicle.

According to DPS, Wheeler was driving a 2015 Chevy Trinity ISD van eastbound loaded with several children on FM 1893 at 7:26 a.m. and had stopped to pick up a child when it was struck from behind by a 2008 Ford pickup, driven by Micah Brock, 17, of Trinity.

The truck with three passengers crashed into a fence, a DPS official said. Brock was not injured in the wreck. Cummings said it is unclear if Trinity ISD will face any penalties.

"As to whether there is any culpability on the ISD's part, from our perspective, it is not something we are ready to comment on" Cummings said. "We have a lot of questions that still need to be answered."

Preliminary reports by on-scene investigators and a statement from the DPS indicated that the children were properly restrained; however, the crash report East Texas News obtained Friday states that Wheeler and all of the children in the Trinity ISD van were wearing lap and shoulder belts when the wreck occurred. The report does not list the codes for any of the various types of child safety seats.

The children in the Trinity ISD van ranged in age from 5 to 15, and Journey was in the center of the second-row seat, the report stated.

According to the report, the remaining seven students in the van suffered "possible injuries."

In addition to Brock, the pickup contained three minors ranging in age from 11 to 16. Brock and two of her passengers were wearing shoulder and lap belts. One of the children in the pickup wasn't restrained, the accident report stated,

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