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Community gathers to remember two Person County girls killed in wreck

Posted July 24, 2015

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— A community gathered Friday evening at a candlelight vigil to remember two Person County girls who were killed while on a family vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Cousins Dakota Shepherd, 11, and Skyler Emore, 9, both of Timberlake, were riding in a Dodge minivan on U.S. Highway 17 Business that was hit Tuesday by a Mercedes sedan as the minivan was turning left into a private driveway, according to South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers. The minivan then hit a parked car.

"They were just little angels," said Linda Tucker, a family friend. "They are all in our prayer."

Dakota's parents and brother also were in the van at the time of the 8 p.m. crash. Her brother, Justin Whitlow, 22, was in intensive care at Grand Strand Regional Hospital, and his parents, Curtis and Suzy Shepherd, and three people who were in the Mercedes also were hospitalized. Their conditions were unknown Wednesday.

"Both girls left impressions on everybody they cam in touch with, and it is evident by the people here right now," said family spokesperson Tony Mills.

Neil DeJean, 47, of Duson, La., has been charged with two counts of reckless homicide and having an open container of beer or wine in a motor vehicle, according to the Highway Patrol.

Alcohol has been ruled out as a factor in the crash, but troopers are still investigating the role speed played.

Dakota was a rising sixth-grader at Southern Middle School in Roxboro, while Skyler attended a charter school in Roxboro.

"(They were) just two typical kids – loved to play," neighbor Tracey Campbell said. "Always smiling and playing. Just two wonderful young ladies."

The family left Monday morning – Whitlow's birthday – for a week in Myrtle Beach, according to Campbell, who said she was heartbroken to awaken Tuesday to the news of the girls' deaths.

Campbell said Suzy Shepherd was very close to her daughter.

"She took her daughter to school every day, picked her daughter up from the bus stop every day. Nine times out of 10, they were most times together," she said. "Just say big prayers for the family because they are going to need it in time."

"Anytime Dakota would ever hug me, you could feel the love, and it's tough," Mills said.

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