Family, friends, classmates, teachers and other members of the community gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of a 16-year-old New Boston boy killed in an out-of-state car crash.
Jimmy Williams was a three-sport athlete at Huron Township's Huron High School. He was a popular kid from a solid family. He was traveling with his family when he died. It was a stranger's decision to get behind the wheel which cut Jimmy's life short.
The Williams family were driving south for a cruise out of Florida to the Bahamas when a drunk driver hit their Dodge Durango on Interstate 77 just outside of Columbia, S.C. Jimmy was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact. His friend, Luke Sturgill, survived the crash with minor injuries. His mother says Luke called his father from the crash scene.
"He said they got cut off and driven off the road. I know that they flipped but I don't know how many times," said Luke's mother, Kimberly Sturgill. "So he called my husband before the police got there and he just said that he couldn't find Jimmy."
About 400 students and parents formed a tight circle Monday night at Huron High School. Jimmy's parents, James and Krista, were seriously injured in the crash. Their 7-year-old son, Caden, and their teenaged daughter, Kali, survived.
The 7th person in the Williams' vehicle was Shannon Henry. The recent Huron graduate is reported to have a serious neck injury.
Counselors have been assigned to help heartbroken students.
Some football players from rival schools attended the vigil. Mourners sang, prayed and joined their candles at the base of the school flag pole. Floating lanterns punctuated the night sky, reminding the community that one of their bright lights has tragically gone out.
The Williams have a sports-related business in Flat Rock. A sign on the door remained Monday which notified customers they would be closed while the family was away on vacation.
They recently hosted their annual pumpkin carving party at their New Boston home. Neighbors say Jimmy always was polite and helpful.
"I have a special needs son, Brian, who, when he would go down the street Jimmy would just be so kind to him," said neighbor Linda Rzepecki. "Sometimes they would throw the football around."
Police have arrested 34-year-old Ricky Lance Deel, of Beaufort, S.C. He is charged with driving under the influence.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the Williams family during this time of loss," said Huron High School Principal Donovan Rowe. "Huron High School lost a valued member of our family."
Jimmy was expected to be a captain on the school football team next year. There are usually four captains on the team, but the coach said in honor of Jimmy they will have only three next season.
-- Ricky Lance Deel