Update (Friday, Sept. 27, 5 p.m.): Henry Longworth was pronounced dead late this afternoon at Memorial Health University Medical Center.
On what is supposed to be a festive week at South Effingham High, the school is mourning the loss of one of its students.
SEHS senior Lacey Danielle Longworth, 17, of Bloomingdale died when the sport utility vehicle she was riding in crashed around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday on Bay Road near Old River Road.
The driver, her brother Henry Longworth, 20, lost control of the Chevrolet Trail Blazer and it hit a utility pole and overturned, according to investigators. He was airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center and survived for three days, but was pronounced dead Friday afternoon.
Henry Longworth was not wearing a seat bealt and was thrown from the SUV, according to the Georgia State Patrol. Lacey Longworth was wearing a seat belt but “took the brunt of the impact” when the passenger side hit the pole, said GSP Trooper Ben Forehand. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The car took out two light poles, and the way the car went over the light pole caved in the top of the car and killed the passenger,” said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.
A teenager riding in the back seat of the SUV, Kimberly Green, was taken to St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Alcohol was not factor in the crash but speeding was, according to the GSP. McDuffie said Green told investigators about a conversation in the SUV just prior to the wreck, indicating “the goal was to get 100 miles an hour on Bay Road.”
“I don’t remember which one said what, but one of them said ‘we can get to 100 miles per hour on Bay Road,’ and the other one said, ‘bet you can’t,’” McDuffie said. “Inexperience and high speed are what led to that entire crash.”
On what began simply as homecoming week at SEHS, extra counselors were on campus Wednesday to help students and staff members cope with their grief. A moment of silence will be observed at Friday night’s football game and collection will be taken up at the pep rally to help with the Longworth family’s medical expenses.
South Effingham Principal Mark Winters said “tears along with hugs (were) a common sight” on Wednesday. He described Lacey Longworth as someone who “had transformed from an awkward ninth-grade student into a well-adjusted senior.”
“Students feel the pain of this tragedy, but they are also remembering that Lacey made them smile and laugh,” Winters said. “She was a very good friend who was quick to speak plainly and honestly about how she felt. She touched many lives during her 17 years.”
Winters said he observed the class Longworth had been taking during first period, as two of her teachers sat and talked to the students.
“I stood in the hallway watching through the classroom door, tears melting into smiles, as they all remembered the friend and the student who yesterday had sat in that same room with them,” Winters said.
Henry Longworth’s Facebook page includes several photos of him enjoying happier times with his sister. His girlfriend, Brittany Lynn, posted a photo Wednesday of her with Lacey Longworth and a caption that said in part, “You’ve made a huge impact on everyone’s life. Your family is going to miss you more than words.”