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For the second time in barely a year, tragedy has devastated a Georgia college campus. Young women full of life and dreams taken in an instant, leaving their families and friends struggling to understand how life could change so fast.

Last year, it was Georgia Southern University grieving for five nursing students killed in a wreck on I-16. Today, it is the University of Georgia mourning the loss of four students in a car crash on a country road Wednesday night. A fifth young woman, the driver of the car, survived the wreck but suffered critical injuries.

It was the last week of classes before final exams, and the freedom of summer was at hand. But Thursday was the saddest anyone could remember on the sprawling Athens campus. Hugs, tears and prayers were the only things that made sense.

The Georgia State Patrol said the five women were traveling northbound on Ga. 15 when their white Toyota Camry crossed the center line. It was shortly before 9 p.m. on the two-lane road in Watkinsville. A southbound Chevrolet Cobalt struck the side of the Toyota, and the impact sent the Toyota into a ditch, killing three of the passengers and shutting down Ga. 15. A fourth died after she was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center.

Agnes Kim, 21, of Snellville, was driving the Camry and the only one in her car to survive. Killed were Halle Scott, 19, of Dunwoody, who was the front-seat passenger; Kayla Canedo, 19, of Alpharetta, in the backseat behind Scott; Brittany Feldman, 20, of Alpharetta, seated in the middle of the backseat; and Christina Semeria, 19, of Milton, who sat behind the driver’s seat.

The driver of the Chevrolet, Abby Short, 27, of Demorest, was treated and released from the hospital Thursday morning.

All of the women in the Toyota were wearing seat belts except for Semeria, who was ejected in the crash, the State Patrol said. Authorities emphasized that alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but they released few details on the cause.

Late Thursday, Agnes Kim remained in a coma with head injuries, her pastor said. Her parents were at her bedside at the Athens hospital.

On campus Wednesday evening, hundreds of students and UGA employees attended a candlelight vigil — a deeply emotional gathering at which some of the victims’ sorority sisters and even some family members spoke.

“To end this year this way is so painful,” said Houston Gaines, UGA’s student government president. “We lost four incredibly strong, inspirational women last night and are fighting for the other in the hospital.”

The four killed were all active on campus and in sororities, and Kim is known for her work with Young Life, a Christian ministry.

Both Canedo and Semeria were members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, which posted a picture of the girls together on Facebook.

“Words cannot express the grief we are feeling as a sisterhood, but as we look forward, let us celebrate in the joy that their lives have brought to so many people,” the sorority posted.

A visit to the Iron Horse

Gene West has provided security for the Alpha Chi Omega house for 25 years. On Thursday, he arrived at 4 a.m. as the news spread through the big brick house that is home to about 150 girls. West, like others, said all five girls had gone to The Iron Horse in Watkinsville, a historic, 2,000-pound steel sculpture on a grassy area that sometimes serves as a gathering spot for students.

“What makes it so sad is that this is the end of classes,” West, a father of three girls, said. “They were getting their stuff together, packing to go home. They’re still weeping and crying.”

Another sorority, Delta Delta Delta, also used Facebook to honor Scott, a former Dunwoody High School cheerleader.

“Thank you to all of those who are offering support to our members and keeping Halle’s family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the sorority posted.

Feldman, a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, spent many summers at YMCA Camp High Harbour on Lake Allatoona, where she and Canedo both attended as campers and later worked. Feldman and Canedo were childhood friends and roommates their freshman year, despite people telling them it would hurt their friendship, according to camp friend Alyssa Achirom, 19, of Sandy Springs.

At a news conference Thursday morning, UGA President Jere Morehead was visibly shaken as he spoke.

“The loss of any student is very difficult,” Morehead said. “A tragedy of this magnitude is truly devastating. Anytime you lose a young person who has their entire life ahead of them that’s a horrible tragedy, and in this case that’s obviously magnified by the tragedy that happened last night.”

‘A road where things go wrong’

Oconee Sheriff Scott Berry said he and UGA police Chief Jimmy Williamson spent the night at the hospital meeting the students’ families. Dozens of students, including members of the Young Life ministry group, also gathered at the hospital, as well as their building near campus, where 20 spent the night.

Thursday afternoon, dozens remained in the hospital waiting rooms, hoping for word on Kim, a senior marketing major who has been involved with Young Life since her freshman year. Kim was a resident assistant for two years in Russell Hall dormitory, where Brittany Torres met her.

“Agnes is such a light,” Torres said at an afternoon vigil. “Everyone on campus loved her. Nobody is such a light. She’s one of those people who just radiates light everywhere. She was such a good influence. I just pray for her safe recovery.”

Russell Hall was also where Kim met the four girls she was with Wednesday night. Pastor Lee Mason and his wife, Lisa, met Kim through Classic City Church. He described her as selfless and full of energy and said others were drawn to her.

Mason said he didn’t like the highway where the accident occurred, because it’s only a few lanes and people speed along it.

“It’s just a road where things go wrong,” he said.

Wednesday night’s crash happened a year and five days after the Georgia Southern University community suffered a similar tragedy. Five nursing students were killed April 22, 2015, in a fiery crash near Savannah. A tractor-trailer driver later admitted he had been sending text messages on his phone just before causing the crash.

“It’s just a road where things go wrong,” he said.

Wednesday night’s crash happened a year and five days after the Georgia Southern University community suffered a similar tragedy. Five nursing students were killed April 22, 2015, in a fiery crash near Savannah. A tractor-trailer driver later admitted he had been sending text messages on his phone just before causing the crash.


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