Students gathered at the rock in front of Thomson High School Monday night to say goodbye to one of their own.
Amber Hinton, a Boneville resident and 17-year-old Thomson High senior, was killed early Monday when she was thrown off and struck by an all-terrain vehicle that rear ended another ATV on the 2100 block of Wire Road near Sweetwater Baptist Church.
By Monday evening, word of the accident had filtered through the community, and friends had already painted the rock in front of Thomson High as a memorial to Amber.
"We feel like all the students are part of our family, and it's never easy losing a member of your family," said Thomson High Principal Rudy Falana. "You're never going to get that back, and it leaves that void there in your school and in your life and in the students' lives."
Mr. Falana said counselors and local ministers addressed the senior class Tuesday morning and were available to talk to students in the school auditorium all day. He said the entire faculty was notified of the accident on Monday and were asked to come in early to help with counseling.
According to Trooper Chris Wright, who worked the accident scene for the state patrol, 16 and 15-year old boys crossed the roadway on ATVs when they spotted a car approaching from behind.
The ATV in front, operated by the 16-year old, also had a 16-year old passenger. He slowed down as he approached a driveway.
Trooper Wright said the 15-year old driving the ATV in the rear didn't realize the one in front had slowed and ran into the back of it, throwing both Amber and himself from the rear ATV.
State Patrol Cpl. Ritchie Howard said Amber died of head trauma at about 12:30 a.m. Monday. The drivers and other passenger were not identified because of their ages. The 15-year old driver suffered a broken arm and contusions, Trooper Wright said.
The investigation is ongoing, and the GSP's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team will be on site to further look into the cause. Trooper Wright said charges could be pending against the two juvenile drivers, even though laws regarding the use of ATVs are sparse.
"The manufacturers put all kinds of disclaimers on them for off-road use and all that, but as far as something being in legislation, there's not," Trooper Wright said.
State Patrol officials did advise that ATVs should not be operated in the roadway because they do not have lights, turn signals and other equipment that meet regulations required of motor vehicles. Trooper Wright said common sense should prevail in the use of ATVs, and adult supervision should always be in place.
Amber's funeral is planned for today at Bethel Baptist Church. The family received friends Wednesday evening at their Augusta Highway residence in Boneville.
The ATV accident was part of a deadly Labor Day weekend around McDuffie County.
A Thomson man was found dead lying on Cobbham Road near Old Washington Road early Saturday. McDuffie County Deputy Coroner Ray Story said Michael Edward Adams, 41, was pronounced dead at 3:10 a.m. after seemingly being run over by a vehicle.
An autopsy attributed the death to multiple blunt force injuries and was ruled accidental, Mr. Story said.
GSP is investigating the small amount of evidence left on the roadway from what could potentially be a hit-and-run. Mr. Story said it may be difficult to identify the vehicle that hit Mr. Adams.
He added that there were no tire tracks or vehicle pieces at the scene.
Mr. Adams' mother was the last to see him between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Friday, Mr. Story said.
Just hours before that, an accident injured two men who were later airlifted to the Medical College of Georgia from the McDuffie Plaza parking lot late Friday.
Delvicco Martin and Tiwan Caitlin, both of Thomson, were involved in a single-car accident on White Oak Road around 11:45 p.m. according to State Trooper C.I. Roberson.
Mr. Martin lost control of his 2000 Ford SUV in a curve about half a mile east of Wisham Road and apparently over corrected, Trooper Roberson said.
The vehicle left the roadway striking the ditch, overturning and ejecting both men.
According to an MCG spokesperson, Mr. Caitlin was listed in fair condition, and Mr. Martin was listed in good condition Tuesday afternoon.
Morris News Service and WTHO news reports were used in this article.