Update: Two West students die in crash; grieving begins

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Update: A guidance counselor at West Rowan High School said students are in a state of shock following the deaths of sophomores Cody Rives and Terry Johnson Monday.
“They’ve naturally come together to do things to start that healing process with making posters and just spending time together talking,” Erin Shelton said.
Shelton said the posters, hanging outside the cafeteria, include photos of both boys and room for students to write in their memories.
Following the accident, Shelton said students gathered at the school’s spirit rock to remember the boys. They painted the rock black and added the words “God bless West Rowan” in white.
The message “We are Falcon family” is painted in the grassy area in front of the rock and the words “Drive safely” greet those turning into the driveway.
Rita Foil, public information officer for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said students gathered around the flag pole this morning before school to pray and grieve.
Additional counselors have been brought in to work with students throughout the day.
By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Only minutes after leaving West Rowan High on the first day of school, two West Rowan High sophomores were killed Monday afternoon in a grinding crash on Sherrills Ford Road at the Second Creek bridge.
The accident occurred about 2:37 p.m., only a few miles east of the high school.
Cody Rives, 16, of 235 Four Lakes Drive, Cleveland, and Terry Johnson, 15, of the same address, died in the crash, according to Trooper C.F. Rogers of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Rogers said Rives, driving a 1990 Mazda Miata convertible with Johnson in the passenger’s seat, was traveling at an excessive and reckless speed coming out of a curve before the bridge.
The convertible crossed the center line at the bridge. A 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer, driven by Kara Graham, 42, of Salisbury, was traveling west toward them.
Rogers said Graham swerved in an attempt to miss the Miata in her lane.
“She tried,” Rogers stressed. But the Trailblazer hit the sports car full on after the Miata glanced off the bridge railing and back into its path, Rogers said at the scene.
Red paint from the Miata’s glancing blow left a long streak on the bridge railing — the railing on the westbound side.
After the collision, the Mazda came to rest in what had been the Trailblazer’s lane, facing west. Its top was down.
The Trailblazer overturned onto the driver’s side and ended up in the eastbound lane, opposite of where it was headed. It came to rest against the opposite bridge railing.
The boys, whose identities were withheld in the early hours after the accident, were killed instantly, Rogers said.
Graham suffered a possible broken arm but was not seriously hurt.
A unit from the Rowan Rescue Squad transported the boys’ bodies from the scene by about 4:20 p.m. Traffic on Sherrills Ford Road was detoured at Long Branch Road on one side of the accident and at White Road on the other.
Ben Kluttz, a sophomore classmate, stopped by the accident scene Monday.
“It’s going to be sad,” Kluttz said of how West Rowan High’s student body will react to the news of the boys’ deaths. “They’ll be remembered.”
Monday was the first day of school for Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
The celebration portion of the school board meeting, which recognizes accomplishments of students and teachers, was canceled Monday.
“This is not a happy day,” Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and we are truly sad.”
Board member Dr. Richard Miller mentioned the accident during his opening prayer.
“Lift up the parents of these students,” he said. “We ask for consolation, understanding and assistance.”
As the accident scene was cleared Monday afternoon, the wrecked Miata still held some of the victims’ belongings, such as backpacks.
Second Creek is the dividing line between Locke and West Rowan fire districts, so both departments responded.
A minor amount of fuel was spilled, and response teams made sure Second Creek was not affected.
Grief counseling
Jamie Durant, principal of West Rowan High, said the school will have the district’s emergency response team on campus to help provide grief counseling for students and staff today and through the remainder of the week.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of these two young men,” the principal said.
Sarah Campbell contributed to this story. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.