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Friends, family begin to mourn teens killed in accident

POSTED: July 1, 2010 9:07 p.m.
Photo by Calli Arnold/

ECHS students shuffle out of the gym to light their candles off of each other's flames after hearing speakers share memories of the Whitney Newman Monday night at a memorial candlelight vigil

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In a crowd of nearly 1,000, sobs and painful laughs broke through the silence during a slideshow of photos depicting a beautiful blonde teenager as she went to prom, made silly faces and hugged her friends and family members.

Within a day and a half of the death of Whitney Newman, barely 17, who was pronounced dead at the scene after the Chevy Tracker carrying her and five others flipped multiple times on Stillwell Clyo Road early Sunday, her Effingham County High School classmates organized a memorial service and a candlelight vigil at the school’s campus. As they mourned Newman, the weight of the tragedy brought many speakers to share deeper messages of safe driving and sound spirituality.

Hers was the first of two deaths resulting from the accident, as another passenger, Neil Morgan’s life was capped at 17 Wednesday afternoon in a Savannah hospital after suffering severe head trauma. A memorial honoring him was held Thursday night. Another teenager is still hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

Before the service, visitors lined up for candles, making donations to the Newman family and writing messages on an ECHS Rebel Pride T-shirt. Sandra Newman, Whitney’s mother, accepted hug after hug from her daughter’s classmates, as friends and family shared stories of her smile, fun spirit and beautiful singing voice.

“She didn’t like for anyone to be sad, and she’d do everything in her power to keep us happy,” said Olivia Benton, a friend of Whitney Newman’s. “So I think we should celebrate her life instead of mourning it…I don’t think she should have been taken from us this way.…”

The Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is continuing to investigate the accident. Charges are pending and the role of alcohol in the incident has not been confirmed. Josh Callaway, Whitney’s older brother, told the crowd that it’s fine to have fun but to stay in one place when alcohol is involved.

“You gotta think, when they make certain seats in vehicles, if it’s a four-seater, put four people in it, or less; not six people in that little car. No horse playing. I’ve been to the accident (site); that was totally stupid.”

His sentiment echoed throughout the memorial and was accompanied by messages of hope and spirituality.

ECHS junior class president Jacoby Jones presented Newman’s family with a flower arrangement of white roses, blue hydrangeas and a blue ribbon reading “Class of 2011.”

“I don’t know about anyone else in here, but this really opened my eyes, as far as my walk with God,” Jones said to applause from the crowd.

He went on to encourage mourners to walk out of there ready and right in their faith and good deeds. Jones finished by leading the crowd in a prayer.

Visitation for Whitney Newman will be today at 10 a.m. followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Springfield. Visitation for Neil Morgan will be Saturday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Springfield, with the funeral service at 3:30 p.m.


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