About 7:25 a.m., on December 17, 1981, the driver of a 16-passenger Head Start school van, traveling southbound on a two-lane dirt road near Hermanville, Mississippi, lost control of the vehicle and ran off the right side of a one-lane wooden bridge. The roadway condition on the approach to the bridge was muddy as a result of rain, and there was a light rain at the time of the accident. The van fell about 9 1/2 feet onto a creek embankment and came to rest on its right side. A fire developed in the front engine compartment and, after burning for 11 to 13 minutes, spread through the interior of the van. Five of the 32 occupants of the van were killed and 11 persons were injured.