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Another tragedy touches ECHS
memorial 1
A makeshift roadside memorial had received many visitors by Thursday afternoon at the site where Effingham County High School senior Christian Cowan died following an auto accident Wednesday night. Travis Williams, who also was in the car when it ran off Rincon-Stillwell Road, was airlifted to Savannah but is expected to recover. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Several Effingham County teenagers have died in car wrecks in recent years, and the community suffered another loss Wednesday night.

An Effingham County High School senior died and another was seriously injured in a one-car crash on Rincon-Stillwell Road south of Ebenezer Road.

“We are devastated as a school and community,” ECHS Principal Yancy Ford said Thursday. “We have been down this road before and I can assure you it doesn’t get easier. It gets tougher each time.”

Christian Cowan, 18, of Rincon was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. Travis Williams, 18, of Rincon, was airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center with serious injuries, the ECSO said.

“We often ask why this type of tragedy has happened so many times to one school, and we may never know the answer,” Ford said. “The most important thing we can do for our students is to continue supporting them and their families, pray for the families affected by this tragedy and never give up on hope that our kids are our future and we must keep standing behind them to be successful community members.”

According to the ECSO, an off-duty Effingham County Sheriff’s investigator happened to drive by and saw Williams standing on the side of the road around 7:30 p.m. Williams had “severe head and face injuries” and was disoriented, said ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.

The car the two teens had been riding in was in the woods. The investigator and another deputy found Cowan’s body in a ditch about 25-30 feet from the car, said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.

The cause of the accident has not been determined, but McDuffie said, “I think speed is going to be a factor in it.” Preliminary indications are that neither teen was wearing a seat belt, he added.

“I know that these young men would’ve stood a lot better chance if they had stayed in that car instead of being slung out on the highway,” McDuffie said.

Following the latest crash to claim the life of a local teenager, McDuffie urged all drivers — particularly young ones — to watch their speed, drive defensively and wear their seat belts.

“Most of the ones that we’ve had, the fatalities have resulted from the young people and the passengers not wearing their seat belt,” McDuffie said. “That’s been our biggest thing. We’ve tried to drum it into their head — wear their seat belt, wear their seat belt, wear their seat belt — but it doesn’t seem to be working for whatever reason.”

The wreck remains under investigation and the Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team has been called in to assist. The car belongs to the Williams family, McDuffie said, but investigators need to determine who was driving it when the crash happened.

“That was an issue (Wednesday) night — nobody knew for sure who was actually driving,” McDuffie said. “We know it’s (Williams’) car, but he told us that the other young man was the driver.”

Counselors and other school district support personnel were at Effingham County High School Thursday to help the students, faculty and staff deal with their grief.

“We are so fortunate to have a loving community to surround our kids with love and support,” Ford said. “I have encouraged our students to shed tears if they need to, talk about the great memories of Christian and support one another.”

Effingham County High’s principal described Cowan as a “fun kid to be around” who “was full of energy.”

“He moved away in October and came back to ECHS one week ago,” Ford said. “We will truly miss Christian at Effingham County High School.”