Communities mourn after four Indiana teens die in horrific crash

Schools, friends band together in wake of loss of 4 teens killed in tragic accident
Nevaeh Law and Brittany Watson
Nevaeh Law and Brittany Watson
Jenna Helton and Martin Martinez
Jenna Helton and Martin Martinez

BROWNSTOWN, IN (WAVE) - "Life can change in a matter of seconds," Destiny Root said.

Root's best friend Nevaeh Law was among the four teenagers killed in a crash Saturday night in Cortland, Indiana. At Brownstown Central High School Monday, she was there with friends supporting one another and the families across multiple communities in Jackson County, Indiana, torn apart following the crash that killed four and injured five others.

On Monday, people in the community are left asking questions and trying to heal.

"Basically, we have a hole in our school right now because we're missing a few of our own students," Brownstown Principal Joe Sheffer said.

Inside the school, Sheffer has called in Centerstone crisis managers to help educate administrators and staff on how to help grieving students. In the library, counselors and comfort dogs were there for kids needing someone to help. The students clung to each another as the loss of two Brownstown Central freshmen students weighed heavily on their hearts.

Fourteen-year-old Nevaeh Law and 15-year-old Brittany Watson were among the four killed and five injured in a crash Saturday night.

"I got a phone call that said Nevaeh's gone," Root said. "I didn't know what to do. It was like 2 o'clock in the morning. I rushed to the hospital, they wouldn't let me see her. She's gone."

"For everybody on the scene, I know the medic units, fire units, it was about as gruesome as you could find," Jackson County, Indiana, Sheriff Mike Carothers said.

Sixteen-year-old Martin Martinez and 14-year-old Jenna Helton, from Seymour, also were killed in the crash.

Carothers said 37-year-old Cara Selby was driving back home for her daughter's birthday for a slumber party when her 1992 Chevrolet Suburban broke down on State Road 258 in Cortland. Just a few blocks away, Carothers said Selby called the kids at the party to come and help her push the car back home.

The car was hit from behind by 24-year-old Elizabeth Watson, also from Seymour.

Carothers said the crash wasn't head-on; he said he believes she tried to swerve once she saw the kids and car in the road.

"So she at the last minute maybe saw them and did a curve," Carothers said. "So it could have been worse. I don't see how but it could have."

Selby's daughter, 15-year-old Victoria Valdivia, was among the five teens injured, and was flown to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

"You know, her daughter is lying up at Riley Hospital right now," Carothers said. "So she's pretty distraught as many other families in the community are."

Courtney Arthur, 14, was injured and flown to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. Allerika Henline, 15, was injured and flown to Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville. Victoria Burchard, 15, was injured and taken to Schneck Medical Center and released. Starlit Watson, 12, was in the car with Selby and injured. She was taken to Schneck Medical Center by ambulance and later released.

"I just ask for prayers for the ones that are in the hospital trying to recover from it," Carothers said. "I know one is pretty serious."

The driver tested negative for drugs and alcohol in the system, Carothers said, and they're working to investigate if speed was a factor. Watson was not arrested and Carothers said right now, authorities are not considering charges in the case.

Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange said Martin was a quiet kid, but sweet, always smiling. As a freshman, Jenna was very new to the school. Counselors from the middle school were brought over to the high school Monday to help the freshmen students and Jenna's friends as they grieve.

Prange said it will take a while to heal but hopes families are encouraged by the incredible outpouring of support in the community for the students. Several hundred people came out Sunday night for a vigil to honor the lives of the four teens killed.

Down the road in Brownstown, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is planning a vigil at the flagpole in front of Brownstown Central High School for Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. to pay their respects to the lives lost. Principal Joe Sheffer said he hopes the event allows students to honor the memories of the students and help the community heal.

Inside the school, Sheffer said, the loss is felt deeply.

"Those two had nothing but positive attitudes," Sheffer said of Watson and Law. "Great girls. As you can see just from the outreach from the students, very well-liked in our school,"

Friends described Jenna as quiet but kind. Nevaeh on the other hand, the life of the party, always with a joke and a hug for her friends.

"She's a really sweet, caring girl," Root said. "Anything you ever needed, she would always be there for you no matter what."

In the school Monday, students signed cards that will be given to the families now missing a child. Comfort dogs and hugs are around for students who are grieving. Students work to remember the friends they lost.

"Always be there for your friends because you never know when they could be taken," Root said.

Communities now across the county are coming together after the weekend's devastating crash tore them apart. Fundraisers are being planned around the community to benefit the families of the victims. A car wash organized by students to benefit families was held at the Taco Bell in Seymour on Monday afternoon.

Rails Craft Brew and Eatery in Seymour will be donating all of its proceeds from open to close on Sept. 5 to the families of the victims. Also, t-shirts are being designed by Lisa Marie, Aspen Rhodes and Aydon Caudill to benefit the families. You can buy one through the Facebook post or donate to help.

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