The death of two Arlington Lamar High School students who were killed in a car accident Monday morning has had a profound impact on the school, Lamar officials said.
Faith Whittaker and Jessica Brown, both 16, were killed in a car crash early Monday morning, along with Faith’s mother, Chelsey Brewer, 36, near Lindale in East Texas.
Brewer, who was driving the three in a 2016 Jeep Renegade, struck a parked truck with a semi-trailer on Interstate 20 at about 4:20 a.m., the Department of Public Safety said.
Jarrett Howell, the basketball coach at Lamar, said Faith and Jessica were both heavily involved at the school and their deaths have shaken the community.
“The kids are kind of in shock, they’re numb a little bit. They have not taken it well,” Howell said. “They were both phenomenal spirits. They were beautiful people who will be missed.”
Howell said both girls, who were juniors, were athletic trainers and student managers of the basketball team. Faith played softball for Lamar and both girls were in advanced placement classes.
Faith was a motherly figure for the school and basketball team, Howell said.
“She was a strong presence and protective. She made sure everyone was there doing what they were supposed to do,” Howell said. “She would tell all the boys what to do and make sure they did it the right way.”
Jessica, he said, was a social butterfly who was very involved.
Howell said it appears the girls and Faith’s mom were on the way back from Alabama and, judging from the time frame, were probably trying to make it on time for school on Monday.
“They never made it back,” he said.
Dorian Jenson, Jessica’s counselor at Lamar, said Jessica was a determined student.
“I knew her quite well, it was a shock to me,” he said. “I was supposed to be calling her back into my office on Monday.”
Jenson described Jessica as amicable and confident with “a wonderful smile.”
He said Jessica, Faith and a third student were “like the three musketeers” and known as social nurturers for their class and younger students.
Jenson and Howell said they’ve had many students come to them for guidance after the girls’ deaths.
“A former student came into my class and asked me how to cope,” Howell said. “It’s hard for a teenager to understand the death of a friend, the death of a peer.”
Jenson added that the school is looking into having a vigil for the girls depending on what the families wish to do.
“The positive thing is to see how much of an impact those girls had across the whole school,” Howell said. “Our school is really diverse and students of all sexes, races, teams were impacted by them. It just shows to take advantage of each day; you never know what’s going to happen.”
Texas deputies said Joseph Allen Battis, 31, of Milton, Florida was asleep in the 18-wheeler when Brewer struck the back of it. He was not injured.
The truck was parked legally on the side of the road, DPS officials said.