PACOLET - Authorities are still trying to determine the driver of a vehicle in a wreck that killed a Jonesville teen-ager and heavily damaged a mobile home Saturday night.
The accident that killed Kayla Brooks, 16, of 1260 Gaffney Highway occurred around 9:10 p.m. on the Jerusalem Road, about four miles north of Jonesville. The only other occupant of the Jeep Wrangler, James Nicholas “Nick” Rochester, 22, of 1150 Granite St., Pacolet, received minor injuries in the wreck. He was treated at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
Union County Coroner William Holcombe said an autopsy is planned on Miss Brooks' body today at Newberry County Memorial Hospital.
According to Lance Cpl. Bryan McDougald, Highway Patrol spokesman, the accident is still under investigation, the driver has yet to be determined, and a reconstruction will be done to try and determine who was driving. Rochester, who was on his feet at the scene of the wreck, told rescue personnel he was not driving. He said the couple had been to Spartanburg and were returning to Miss Brooks' home with her at the wheel.
“The vehicle was traveling south on the Jerusalem Road in a curve when the driver lost control,” McDougald said. “It traveled off the roadway to the left, striking a mailbox, the mobile home and a parked pickup truck. More information will be forthcoming pending the reconstruction. The speed limit was 45 mph and speed is believed to have been a factor.”
The Jeep knocked supports out and sheared the porch roof off the mobile home-which left a gaping hole in the structure. The Jeep then came to rest on its side. Miss Brooks, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown out.
The mobile home struck on 3191 Jerusalem Road is the home of Robbie and Chastity Hames and their two children. Hames, who was lying down in a bedroom with his son, said the crash sounded like an explosion.
“I woke up and all I could see was dust,” Hames said. “I made my way to the front, looked out and saw the boy in the car yelling for the girl.”
Hames said he and his family were shook up, but basically unhurt.
“I got a little cut, my wife got bruised,” he said. “My wife was sitting on the couch. It covered her with debris and she kicked her way out. I think my little girl just got scared to death.”
Hames said he had lived on the same location on the Jerusalem Road since 1986 and had put the double-wide mobile home on the site around 12 years ago.
Both Rochester and Miss Brooks attended Oakbrook Community Church. Rochester recently returned from a nearly two-week long mission trip with other church members to West Niger, Africa.
Several concerned church members came to the scene of the wreck Saturday. They described Miss Brooks and Rochester as nice young people and said Miss Brooks had become very involved in the church youth group. She was a junior at Union County High School who worked in the library during lunch.
Union County High School Principal Joseph Walker said he, his wife, Janet, and Cindy Langley had visited with Miss Brooks' family Sunday. Miss Brooks had attended Jonesville High School last year before the schools were consolidated and Janet Walker had been her physical science teacher and Mrs. Langley had been her principal.
“Both Janet and Cindy agreed that Kayla was a strong-willed person, very opinionated and passionate about what she believed in - and that is a good thing,” Joseph Walker said. “She was a very good girl. She was easily on her way to graduation and having a successful life. It's another tragedy for our school and a loss to the student body and the community.”
Walker said students would be provided with materials to make cards for Miss Brooks' family. Faculty and staff were slated to meet at 7:30 this morning to discuss the tragedy and the school's “Care Plan” would be put in action with extra counselors and area ministers coming to the school to talk with students.
“We have invited (Miss Brooks') minister and youth minister and other local ministers have all responded well,” he said. “We will have a safe room with counselors where the students can come in and talk or just come in and sit.”