CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - A horrific boating accident in the Bahamas that made international headlines has taken the life of a Cherokee County woman and has left her husband with severe injuries.
Cherokee County school officials said 39-year-old Maleka Jackson and her husband, Tiran, were among 10 people on the boat when it blew up about 9 a.m. Saturday off the coast of Exuma, which is 130 miles south of Nassau. The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.
The blast killed Maleka Jackson. Her husband was so badly injured that doctors had to amputate his foot. Eight other American tourists were injured in the explosion.
News outlets report video filmed from a nearby boat showed tourists jumping into the water in an attempt to rescue passengers in the burning boat. The footage also showed thick, black smoke pouring into the sky and large flames shooting from the boat.
Maleka and Tiran Jackson were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary in the Bahamas.
The tragic news rocked the Cherokee County Community, where Maleka Jackson served last year as the PTSA President at Mill Creek Middle School. Her husband, TIran Jackson, was a beloved football coach in the area. Their son, Cameron, is a seventh grader at the school.
On the Cherokee County School District's Facebook page, Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower, described Jackson as a "wonderful mom, volunteer, and leader, who cared so much for her community and its children and teachers."
Family members supplied FOX 5 with photos of Jackson and her family from her Facebook page.
Despite the shock and sadness, Maleka and Tiran Jackson's friends say they want the world to know about this amazing couple.
"What a wonderful couple, the kind you aspire to be. Well loved, passionate about whatever they put their mind to," friend Russell Elam said. "They were a fun-loving couple."
Hundreds gathered for an outpouring of love and support for the family at a neighborhood vigil in the Lakestone community. Close friends, staff from Mill Creek Middle School, and neighbors showed up to offer their condolences and support.
"She was an amazing mother, an amazing daughter," relatives attending the vigil said to the crowd.
"All day yesterday, all day today, we have been rallying together...she touched so many people in so many ways," said Jada Wright Nichols, an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority member from Tennessee State, who said fellow sisters across the South and Southeast plan to hold vigils for their fallen sister.
Loved ones said they hope to also financially support the Jackson family in their time of need.
A GoFundMe for the Jackson family has been set up here.