Four teenagers from two local schools were killed in a crash that left five others injured late Saturday on State Road 258 near Cortland.
Three of the four people who died as a result of the wreck, Jenna Helton, 14, and Nevaeh Law, 14, both of Seymour, and Brittany Watson, 15, of Brownstown were pronounced dead at the scene by Jackson County Coroner Michael Bobb.
A fourth, Martin Martinez, 16, of Seymour was flown to an Indianapolis hospital where he later died, Bobb said.
Five other girls, Starlit Watson, 12, of Brownstown; Victoria Burchard, 15, of Medora; Victoria Valdivia, 15, of Seymour; Allerika Henline, 15; and Courtney Arthur were injured in the wreck, reported to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department at 11:08 p.m. Saturday, according to Officer J.L. McElfresh’s report.
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Watson was treated and released from Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, while Valdivia was airlifted to a hospital in Indianapolis and expected to recover, her mother Cara Selby said.
Arthur was taken to Riley Hospital for Children and Henline was taken to Norton Health Center in Louisville.
Burchard’s condition was not available at press time.
Selby, 37, said the Chevrolet Suburban she was driving broke down following Valdivia’s birthday party.
Some of the group were attempting to push the vehicle back home, less than a block away from their home at 4236 East State Road 258, Selby said.
The group was in the westbound lane of State Road 258 when a 2018 Chevrolet Traverse driven by Elizabeth Watson, 24, of Georgetown ran into the rear of the Suburban.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers said police were told that Watson was the last in a line of vehicles that had passed Selby’s car, but are unsure if that was the case. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Elizabeth Watson, who is not related to Brittany and Starlit Watson, has not been cited in the incident and was not injured.
The scene shows the two vehicles skidded about 200 feet after the collision before they came to a rest.
Car fragments left over from the wreck could be seen Sunday afternoon in a grassy area nearby and police lines were spray-painted on the road to show some details of the wreck.
Flowers and balloons were secured to a utility pole along the road near the scene of the accident.
Both Seymour and Brownstown Central high schools planned to provide extra assistance to students Monday to help them deal with the deaths of their classmates.
Brownstown Central High School principal Joe Sheffer said Sunday he planned to meet with administrators and counselors before the start of school Monday and each would be available for students that needed help.
Sheffer said he also made contact with the Centerstone Crisis Team to provide assistance to the students.
Seymour High School principal Greg Prange said staff at the school would be available to help students trying to process the deaths.
Prange said extra counselors, administration and area youth ministers will be at the school to help students.
“We pray for peace, comfort and understanding as we all go through this together,” he said.
Both Prange and Sheffer plan to address the tragedy during morning announcements to students.
Carothers said the scene was difficult for first responders and crews who worked through the night.
“I’m really saddened by this,” he said.
Carothers, who has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, said the situation was not like any other he has handled.
“This is a brand new one,” he said.
McElfresh and Jackson County Officer Mitch Ray were the first officers to respond to the wreck, and they were assisted by detectives Bob Lucas and Tom Barker.
Also assisting at the scene were officers with Brownstown and Seymour police departments, and medical personnel and firefighters with Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department and Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel.