Community mourns deaths of teens


Seymour mother Torre Collins wants people to hug their children tight and hold them close because in an instant, they might be gone.

“Mine walked out the door (Saturday) and will never be coming home to me,” Collins said.

Her daughter, Nevaeh Law, who would have turned 15 on Sept. 5, was killed along with three of her friends in a wreck in the 4400 block of State Road 258 in Cortland around 11 p.m. Saturday night.

They had all been at a friend’s birthday party.

Law, the daughter of Collins and Timothy Kerkhof, was a freshman at Brownstown Central High School. Others who died were Jenna Helton, 14, of Seymour; Brittany Watson, 15, of Brownstown; and Martin Martinez, 16 of Seymour.

Friends quickly organized a community prayer vigil Sunday at Seymour High School for the families and all of those affected.

People embraced one another and shed tears as they lit candles and launched balloons into the sky and left messages on cards.

Pastor Andy Schroeder from Seymour Christian Church spoke to the hundreds of people in attendance.

“We want to take some time and pray,” he said. “We want to take some time to love and to hug and to encourage and to cry and to just be there for each other.

“God knows the hurt. He knows the pain, and he knows the tears, every one that has fallen from our eyes,” Schroeder said. “He knowsm and he understands. And I know for usm that’s hard to understand and to grab a hold of.

“But not only does God know, he cares,” Schroeder added. “Evidence of that is right here. Look around and see the support of this community. God has placed it in the hearts of hundreds of people to come and to care.”

As Schroeder read out each of the four victims’ names, people prayed silently and sobbed with pain and grief. They also prayed for those students who were injured and are recovering.

John Helton said Jenna was all he and his wife, Amie, could ask for in a daughter.

“She was a goodhearted girl that loved to be with her friends,” he said. “(She was) always joking and laughing.”

Jenna loved music and her two sisters, he said.

“She loved her 4-year-old sister with Down syndrome. She was sweet and caring,” John said. “She listened to my lecturing intently, wanting to always please me. She was my angel, and she will be terribly missed.”

Carissa Newcomb, 14, a freshman at Trinity Lutheran High School, said Helton was one of her best friends. Newcomb also was friends with Law.

“I moved to Seymour in kindergarten, and Jenna was the only friend I had then,” she said. “She was an amazing person and always had time for her friends. There were many times we would just stay at each other’s houses for days on end. It was always a good time with her.”

Newcomb said it seems unreal to lose someone at such a young age.

“There’s really no words to describe how much she meant to me and all of her friends,” Newcomb said. “We all love her and miss her so much.”

Collins said she can’t comprehend the loss of her daughter and the others.

“She was so loving, as were all the kids,” Collins said. “(Nevaeh) was an amazing young lady. She was so bright and was very dedicated to her friends.”

Law played softball and loved to do people’s makeup so much so that she wanted to study cosmetology, Collins said.

Newcomb said she met Law in the sixth grade, and they instantly became friends.

“She was always so bubbly and happy,” Newcomb said. “She made everyone around her happy and laugh.”

Jackie Watson said her daughter, Brittany, was meant to change the world.

“She was very smart and had big dreams,” Jackie said. “And she had the biggest heart of anyone I had ever met.”

Jackie’s other daughter, Starlit Watson, 12, was injured in the wreck. She was taken to the hospital and later released.

“She’s OK, just some bumps and bruises, but she is tore up about her sister,” Jackie said.

As a single mom, Watson said it won’t be easy to pay for all of the funeral expenses and continue to take care of her other children.

But she wants Brittany to have the “best of the best.”

“Because that’s what she was,” Jackie said.

Martinez’s mother, Terri, said she learned of her son’s death while on vacation in Florida and was on her way back home to make arrangements.

She hasn’t had time to process anything that has happened, she said.

“It’s way too soon for him,” she said. “He was too sweet and would do anything for anyone.”

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