Girl killed in Trinity ISD van wreck died as a result of 'blunt force trauma' to neck

Girl killed in Trinity ISD van wreck died as a result of 'blunt force trauma' to neck
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A preliminary autopsy report shows that 7-year-old Journey Magness died as a result of "blunt force injuries of the neck" she suffered in a Trinity ISD van wreck that occurred on Dec. 1.

According to the preliminary autopsy report by Dr. John M. Wayne with Forensic Medical of Texas in Beaumont, Journey suffered a fracture in her C3 vertebrae and internal bleeding in her neck.

Earlier this month, East Texas News learned that charges could possibly filed against Chandra Wheeler, 55, of Trinity, the driver of the Trinity ISD van, pending the final results of the Texas Department of Public Safety's investigation.

"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.

"We are trying to determine if the 5-year-old and 7-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."

Journey was the daughter of Deputy David Magness with the Trinity County Sheriff's Office.

According to a statement from the DPS, 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 the DPS crash report, 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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