WILMINGTON — Local schools and communities are mourning the deaths of two teen-aged girls who died in a single-car accident Wednesday night in Highland County.
At about 9:10 p.m. a 2004 Chrysler Sebring, driven by Kimberly Sears, 17, of Wilmington, with passenger Kehte Little, 17, of Sabina, was southbound on New Martinsburg Road and failed to negotiate a curve, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol Wilmington Post. The car traveled off the left side of the roadway and struck a tree, then overturned and landed in a creek on its top.
According to Branden Jackman of the Paint Creek EMS/Fire District, the call came in at about 9:12 p.m. to Paint Creek’s Station 1 in Greenfield. Jackman said the ditch was full of water and the passenger compartment of the vehicle was submerged.
Emergency crews removed the driver and passenger from the vehicle, and they were transported to Adena Greenfield Medical Center (AGMC).
Jackman said that a person who lives nearby drove to the scene, and the individual left their own vehicle and called 911. The vehicle was left in the roadway, he said, where it was struck by a truck on the road, which propelled the parked vehicle into the “good Samaritan,” Jackman said.
That individual was flown from the scene by MedFlight, he said, while the person driving the truck declined treatment. The person flown from the scene did not have life-threatening injuries, according to the OSHP.
Both girls were junior students at Laurel Oaks Career Development Campus in Wilmington in the cosmetology program. Sears’ home school was Wilmington High School and Little’s home school was Washington High School in Washington Court House.
“They were great kids and good students, and were at Laurel Oaks in the same [vocational] program together, where they spend several hours every day together, so the class becomes very close. That makes it especially difficult [for other students in the program]. They’ll be greatly missed,” said Jon Weidlich, community relations director for Greak Oaks.
Counting Sears and Little, there were 21 juniors in the Laurel Oaks cosmetology program this academic year.
Grief counseling, Weidlich said, was handled first as a group when all Laurel Oaks students gathered together. Then, throughout the day, students had the opportunity to talk with people while adult leaders gave particular attention to the junior cosmetology class members.
Weidlich noted that Thursday was the last day before Laurel Oaks went on spring break, and so there is a need to be ready to support students and staff before and after the one-week break.
At Sears’ home school of Wilmington High School, grief counseling was available in the library all day, said WHS Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart.
While attending WHS, Sears was “very active” in the choir program, and news of her death “has hit them hard,” McCarty-Stewart said. She was “well loved” by many students, the principal added.
The spring variety show hosted by the choir, scheduled for Thursday evening, was to go ahead and would be presented in Sears’ honor.
Sears had worked at Wendy’s restaurant on Rombach Avenue in Wilmington since September 2014, and was a crew leader there.
Store General Manager Ryan Shanks said, “She had an impact on people. She made everyone happy; she came in happy and ready to work, and always went out of her way for other people.”
He added, “Losing Kimmie will definitely have an impact on everyone here.”
At Washington City Schools — the home district of Kehte Little — Superintendent Matthew McCorkle said grief counseling will be available for Washington C.H. students on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at Liberty Hall. Students do not return from spring break until next Thursday.
“Our hearts are broken,” said McCorkle. “This is a tragic accident and loss for the Blue Lion family. Anyone who would like assistance is welcome to come to the grief counseling. The grieving process is part of the healing process.”
Although the crash remains under investigation, alcohol and drug use do not appear to be factors, the OSHP stated. Anyone with further information is asked to contact the Wilmington Highway Patrol Post at 937-382-2551.
Angela Shepherd of the (Hillsboro) Times-Gazette contributed to this story.