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Central High senior class president dies after crash with Phenix City school bus

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Central High School’s senior class president Chris Rogers is being remembered for making a positive impact in the lives of his fellow Phenix City students.

Chris, who was driving the car that collided with a Phenix City school bus Friday, died Tuesday, superintendent Randy Wilkes told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Russell County coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr. told the L-E that Chris, 17, died in Piedmont Columbus Regional’s midtown hospital at 2:49 p.m. from blunt force trauma. His body was being taken Wednesday to the Alabama Department of Forensics Sciences for an autopsy ordered by the district attorney’s office, Sumbry said.

Comments on Facebook help explain what the community lost and what people gained by knowing Chris:

  • “Thanks for working diligently to ensure that our class was premier,” wrote Jamorrey Gosha. “In spite of it all, God still gets the glory! Prayer warriors, please keep the Rogers family lifted in prayer during this time of bereavement.”
  • “Thanks for going out of your way to make sure 20’ was one to remember,” Bryant Brown wrote. In another post, he wrote, “best believe i’ll be at your going away party crying a stream.”
  • Sebastian Clay wrote, “R.I.P Christopher Rogers you were a life changer.”
  • C.J. Newsome wrote, “Never talked to him much but the times I did, I Instantly knew that he had a good head on his shoulders, and good spirited person, and was gonna go places.”

“Phenix City Schools is saddened by the passing of Chris Rogers and wishes to extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends. . . . Chris was a beloved member of the Red Devil Family and will be greatly missed,” the school system said in a news release Tuesday night.

Chris was a member of Central esports team and the Beta Club. His academic ranking was among the best of his class.

“We are mindful that it is not unusual for students to experience many different emotions after such a traumatic event; therefore, counseling will be available on campus as needed,” the PCS news release says. “Please continue to remember the Rogers family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”

Central had 15 school counselors — triple the usual number — and more than 30 clergy members at the school Wednesday, Wilkes said, to help any of the approximately 1,300 students in grades 10-12 as well as the staff grieve.

Chris was traveling south on Highway 165 around 4:30 p.m. Friday, in a 2012 Ford Focus when the bus turned onto the highway from Misty Forest Drive, at the entrance to the Misty Forest subdivision, according to a news release from the Phenix City Police Department.

The vehicles collided in the intersection and “sustained major damage,” Capt. Darryl Williams said in the news release.

Chris had to be extricated from the car and flown by helicopter to the hospital, Williams said. The passenger in the car was treated and released, he said.

The bus had three students and one monitor along with the driver, Wilkes said. No injuries among the passengers and driver of the bus were reported, although they were transported to the emergency room as a precaution, Williams said.

The bus driver has been a Phenix City Schools employee for 14 years, all as a bus driver, Wilkes said.

Asked whether the bus driver has had any previous accidents or traffic violations, Wilkes said in an email to the L-E, “To our knowledge, he was involved in but one minor incident during his employment, which occurred in the system’s bus yard, and there were no personal injuries.”

The bus driver has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the investigation, Wilkes said.

“No adverse inference should be drawn from the fact that the bus driver has been placed on administrative leave,” he said.

The case remains under investigation, according to police.

“There has been much outcry on social media about the crash and the investigation surrounding it,” Williams said in a news release Wednesday. “The Phenix City Police Department assures the family and the citizens in this community that a thorough investigation into the crash is being conducted. As in all death investigations, the findings will be submitted to a grand jury for review. This is an ongoing investigation, and at this time certain details about the crash cannot be released. Again, please respect the privacy of all involved in this tragedy, as we conduct this investigation.”

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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