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Students and faculty struggle for normalcy after Mardi Gras parade crash

GULF SHORES, Ala. - Students on the Gulf Coast are trying to find normalcy after what happened yesterday.

Friends and teachers of the victims returned to school today.

There was an increased law enforcement presence at Gulf Shores High School as students returned. Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the emergency responders were just there to support the students.

"You don't ever plan it," said Eddie Tyler, Baldwin County Schools Superintendent. "I didn't get up yesterday morning thinking I would deal with an issue like this."

With heavy hearts students raised the flag at Gulf Shores HighSchool Wednesday morning.

"It's tough."

All in the Gulf Shores school district are trying to heal after a chaotic 24 hours.

Tuesday morning a 73-year-old driver plowed into the band during the annual Mardi Gras parade.

Now as three of the eighth grade band members recover, the district is living out its message. One team - one fight.

 

"Not a lot of fanfare," said Tyler. "It's just one of these things where you come together this morning and you all unite and kind of lean on each other for support."

School officials are overwhelmed both locally and nationally. As for what you can do at home - they are asking for love and prayers to be sent their way.

The Gulf Shores Police Department is continuing to investigate, but the chief said there is nothing that indicates that this was an intentional act.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the high school band. More than $19,000 has been raised so far to help the band replace instruments.

Meanwhile, Gulf Shores police are still trying to piece together what happened. What could have possibly caused the 73-year-old driver to accelerate into the band?

As the investigation continues, the community is coming together to support the school and the injured students.

The Baldwin County Schools Superintendent said that some of the students that have been released are still pretty hurt. But despite that, he said they are still in high spirits.

The Gulf Shores community is like a family.

When something bad happens, it impacts not only those involved, but everyone else too.

"I came up after it had occurred and they were pulling the individual out of the vehicle,  and that's the worst moment of a principal's life, " recalled Gulf Shores High School Principal Ernie Rosado.

Rosado said the terrifying incident could have been much worse. He's thankful for a hero who was walking alongside the band.

"Mr. Mixon our band director he was pulling kids out before the car hit them," said Rosado. "So, he saved some lives."

Gulf Shores Public Information Officer Grant Brown said he's never experienced anything as stressful as this. "To know that it's happening in your town is kind of a gut checking moment."

No matter where you live, Brown said a lesson can be learned from what happened in his city. "Hug your children. Let your children know that you love them. When they leave don't just expect that they're going to come back the same as the way the left because they may not."

School officials couldn't comment specifically on the extent of the students injuries, but they do expect that all of the students will be okay.

73-year-old Larry Rathbun has been identified as the man who drove his SUV into the band.

Police do not believe he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.