Cherokee County

Metro Atlanta PTSA president killed in Bahamas boat explosion

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A metro Atlanta PTSA president was killed over the weekend in a boat explosion in the Bahamas as she and her husband celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, Cherokee County school officials said.

Maleka Jackson and her husband Tiran were on a small tour boat with 10 others when it exploded about 9 a.m. Saturday off the coast of Exuma, which is 130 miles south of Nassau.

Jackson was the president of the Mill Creek Middle School PTSA in Woodstock during the 2017-18 school year, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.

"She was so full of life and in love," neighbor Russel Elam told Channel 2's Matt Johnson.

Her husband was badly burned in the explosion, had a leg amputated and is “fighting for his life” in a Florida hospital, the PTSA said in the Facebook post.

“He has a long road ahead, which will include multiple surgeries and physical therapy,” the group said.

Mill Creek Family, It is with a very sad heart that we report that our very own 2017-2018 PTSA President Maleka Jackson...

Posted by Mill Creek Middle School PTSA on Monday, July 2, 2018

Maleka and Tiran Jackson's friends said the two loved doing everything together, especially celebrating their anniversary.

"There wasn't a time when Ty wasn't talking about Maleka and Maleka wasn't talking about Ty," said neighbor Scotty Hendricks. "We're going to miss them here."

Their 12-year-old son, Cameron, is a rising seventh-grader at Mill Creek. Days before their trip, the couple dropped him off with family in Tennessee.

The cause of the explosion has not been determined, according to ABC News. Exuma police are leading the investigation.

Video filmed from a nearby boat showed tourists jumping into the water in an attempt to rescue passengers in the burning boat, ABC News reported. The footage also showed thick, black smoke pouring into the sky and large flames shooting from the boat.

A total of nine people were injured in the explosion, according to ABC News. Jackson was the only confirmed fatality.

Friends have their questions about whether the boat was properly maintained.

"I don't understand how something like that could happen," Hendricks said.

But for now they say the focus is on helping a father heal and a son move on without his mother.

"We know that everybody can pray, and that's what we ask for," Hendricks said.

More than $20,000 in donations have already poured in since a GoFundMe page was created to benefit the family. The goal is $100,000.

A vigil has been scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday on the tennis court of the family’s Lakestone subdivision, which is near the local Walmart on Ga. 92, according to the PTSA.

Steve Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.