BENSON, N.C. — A West Johnston High School student died late Tuesday and two of her classmates were seriously injured in a car crash earlier in the day, authorities said.
Emily Mya, 16, a rising junior, died at about 11:30 p.m. at University of North Carolina Hospitals. Melissa Ann Willis, 16, also a rising junior, is listed in critical condition at Duke University Medical Center, and Alyssa Heider, 13, an incoming freshman, is in critical condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital, authorities said.
All three were members of the school's girls volleyball team. Freshman orientation was held Wednesday at West Johnston High -- classes begin Aug. 25 -- so school officials brought grief counselors to campus to talk with faculty and students about the wreck.
"I'm beside myself. I have been up since 4 o'clock (Wednesday) morning thinking about this," said Michelle Shaw, a parent who knows the families of two of the girls. "My heart goes out to all of the families."
The wreck occurred shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday at Elevation Road and Raleigh Road in the McGees Crossroads community, authorities said.
Willis was driving a red convertible back to school after a volleyball team outing at a lake, ran a stop sign and collided with a white pickup truck, which overturned, authorities said. Both vehicles ended up in a field nearby.
"(One girl) got out and ran over to the road to the nearest man who had stopped and used his cell phone," said Ken Lee, who witnessed the wreck. "She was bleeding from the top of the head down her face."
There was no word Wednesday on the condition of the driver of the truck.
Authorities said charges are pending in the case.
Car wrecks are blamed for two of every five deaths among U.S. teens, and 62 percent of those deaths occur when another teen is at the wheel, according to national statistics. North Carolina law bans teen drivers from carrying more than one passenger.
West Johnston High has pulled out of a volleyball tournament scheduled for this weekend so the team can come to grips with the tragedy, officials said.
"(They were) all-around athletes, outgoing, bubbly, just class leaders -- student leaders -- and well liked," said Crystal Roberts, spokeswoman for Johnston County Schools.