Gulf Shores Marching Band Rolls One Year after Tragedy

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) - A triumphant return for the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade which is lead by the Gulf Shores High School Marching Dolphins.

In 2017, a dozen band members were seriously injured and an entire band emotionally scarred after an SUV plows through the band at the beginning of last years parade. Today, February 13th 2018, all but a few members lead the parade.

The Assistant Gulf Shores Fire Chief Keith Martin is this years grand marshal.  He was last year's as well, but asked to come back in 2018 because the parade was canceled. 

Here is the original story:

Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade 2017. The images are still hard to look at almost a year later.  For 12 band members, "I thought I was going to die," the view that day was very different.

"We had just started playing the "Hey" song and then I'm underneath a car," says Isabelle Wingate.

"When we were marching I heard a car like speed up but I thought it was far away," remembers Jenna Tierney.  "I turn around and I just stare at that car."

Jenna, Isabelle along with Andrew Meza and Ciara Nelson spoke to News 5 for the first time about a day they will never forget.

"It's overwhelming what happened," says Andrew. "I'm just thinking if it's real or not because it happened so quickly."

"I remember opening my eyes and I couldn't hear anything," says Ciara, "I guess it was like white noise out of pure shock and then I remember seeing the bottom of the car."

Police have determined it was a terrible accident.  "After the car had stopped," Ciara continues, "I was still underneath it by the back tires. People had to come up, lift the car and drag me out from underneath it." 

Broken bones, road rash, burns, Isabelle describes her injuries. "The underside of the car had burned my skin on that part my arm, some road rash and chemical burns and stuff like that."

For Jenna more serious injuries, "I broke my left femur and both pelvic bones.  I limp when I walk, so I use the cane to walk."

"I think several of them are probably lucky to be alive," says Sgt. Jason Woodruff with Gulf Shores Police.  He was in charge of the investigation.

Read more about the incident here: Car Drives into Crowd at Gulf Shores Parade

In the past year, most of the physical wounds have healed. It's the scars you can't see that will take longer. "I'm still trying to work through because anytime I see a car like swerve or anything like that I get really scared it reminds you back to the day," says Andrew.

"I still get flashes of it," says Ciara, "I still sometimes have nightmares about it but then I get over it. Like I'm still breathing so that's a big plus."

One thing they believe could have helped in the healing, an apology from the driver of the SUV Larry Rathbun.

"If he had come to the hospital and seen us," says Andrew. "I felt like that would have been a good apology. If he had seen how we were doing."  Ciara adds, "I understand it was an accident but an apology would still be nice."
But not everyone feels that way. Isabelle says she doesn't speak for everyone but has come to terms with what happened.  "You know you hit 12 people and emotionally injured a whole band. I understand that and I feel bad for him because you have to live with that the rest of your life knowing that happened.  I just want him to know that I forgive him."

A year later, the healing continues. Some still have a long way to go but just look at how far they've come.

The driver of the SUV, Larry Rathbun has yet to speak publicly about the accident and he again declined to speak with News Five for this story. He said the focus should remain on the children and their recovery.

A Baldwin County Grand Jury is still expected to hear the case.

Read more here: No criminal charges to be filed in Gulf Shores Mardi Gras crash

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