Student, graduate killed in fiery crash

September 18, 2008 4:39:11 PM PDT
For the fourth time in two years, a Princeton High School student was killed in a car crash.

A Johnston County teenager and his 21-year-old friend died in a fiery crash Wednesday night. Three other young people are in critical condition.

The flag is flying half-staff outside Princeton High School Thursday. The entire community is grief stricken.

"There's too much pain here," said Beronia Capps, parent of a Princeton HS student.

The Highway Patrol says Matthew Stewart and Brandon Baker died in the wreck. Stewart was a 17-year-old senior. Twenty-one-year-old Baker was a graduate of Princeton High.

The two were with two friends, Nathan Pearson and Cody McConnell, who are both Princeton High School students.

The Highway Patrol says Pearson was driving, likely speeding, and he crossed the center line and hit a Jeep Cherokee.

Eighty-year-old Rosa Wilson was driving the Jeep. She is in serious condition as of Thursday morning.

The wreck comes a year to the day that another Princeton student was killed in a crash. Four students have died in car wrecks in the last year-and-a-half.

"What is it?" Capps asked. "I don't know. I honestly don't know. Is it bad luck?"

Capps has two children who attend the school. She said the whole community will feel the losses.

"When you die here, your locker is sealed, and a plaque is put on it with your name, and the only time it's ever used is if you have a brother or sister coming up," Capps said. "Other than that you're not allowed to use it again."

The Highway Patrol says the driver, Pearson, will likely face charges. Preliminary reports indicate alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the wreck.

Princeton High School said the three boys who are current students are seniors and play football. Baker, 21, graduated in 2007 and also played on the school's football team.

"These were all around good kids," Principal Kirk Denning said. "All were on the football team. They were involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, were class officers and involved in other school activities. They were nice young men and they will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and to the students who are recovering."

"Matt Stewart was a wonderful kid from a wonderful family," football coach Russell Williamson said. "We don't know how we will replace him. His joy, hard work and great attitude were evident on and off the field. Our hearts and prayers are with his family and the family of Brandon Baker, Cody McConnell and Nathan Pearson."

The Highway Patrol's commander has ordered a report on traffic fatalities involving young people in Johnston County. They hope they can figure out how to put an end to the crashes.


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