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Student Killed on Way to Pick Up Prom Tux

Posted April 5, 2007

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— A high school student on his way to pick up his prom tuxedo was killed Wednesday in an accident in Johnston County, authorities said.

A sport utility vehicle driven by James Cook ran a stop sign at the intersection of U.S. Highway 70 at Old Cornwallis Road, near the Johnston-Wayne county line, and was hit by a pickup truck at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said.

Cook, 20, a senior at Princeton High School, was taken to Pitt Memorial Hospital, where he later died, authorities said.

Jeremy Pennell, 17, also a senior at Princeton High, was airlifted to Duke University Hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition Thursday evening, authorities said.

State Highway Patrol troopers investigating the accident said neither teen was wearing a seat belt.

The driver of the pickup truck wasn't seriously injured, authorities said.

The two teens were driving to Goldsboro to pick up their tuxedos for the Princeton High prom, which is scheduled for Thursday night, authorities said.

Thursday also was the last day of classes at the school before spring break, and school administrators brought in grief counselors to help students and faculty cope in the wake of the accident.

Principal Kirk Denning said he spoke with Cook's mother Thursday morning, and they decided not to postpone or cancel the prom.

"They want the prom to go on," Denning said of Cook's family.

Princeton students plan to have a moment of silence for Cook and Pennell at the prom.

"There are a lot of kids who are very upset. As you know, Princeton is very small. We're a K-12, around 1,400 kids, and most everybody knows everybody," Denning said. "A lot of times, they don't realize how fragile life is. We don't ever want a lesson to be this hard to learn."

The school has 71 students in the senior class. Both Cook and Pennell have siblings at the school.

Cook worked at a restaurant near the school, and friends and co-workers erected a small memorial inside.

"He was the nicest guy you'll ever meet. James cared about everybody. He tried to be everybody's friend," co-worker Bonnie Phillips said.

The accident remains under investigation.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • mustanggirl2004 Apr 22, 2007

    Comment posted by "jackaroo":
    "I accept the criticism from all the Princeton teenagers, because like you, at your age, I thought I knew all the answers. Plus you are dealing with a very personal, and emotional pain. Later in life, you WILL find out you did not know all the answers, but no one can convince you of that now. I am 56 yrs old, with two children in their early 30's, and lots of mileage on these treads."
    I don't understand this person. What teenager has claimed to "know all the answers" about this? I also don't understand why a 56-year-old adult is spending so much time commenting on a story that doesn't even concern them. Jackaroo if you are such an asset to your community maybe you should spend less time on the internet and more time applying your invaluable wisdom and experience to other areas of your life. I graduated from PHS last year and James's family and Jeremy are in my prayers along with people that insist on posting derogatory comments about this tragedy.

  • justapasserby Apr 22, 2007

    O.K. so i know this happened a couple of weeks ago, but i was just reading through some of these comments and it seems as if some people got on here to comment about other peoples comments. it's as if they didn't even read the story about james and jeremy. i attend Princeton. it was an absoulte awful day when we found out about james. i actually found out about the wreck the night before, but i didnt think too much of it because i didnt know the severity of it until that thursday. i didn't know james too well. he was in my first block class and i knew him a little. what i did know was that he was an amazing guy. i thought he was hilarious. everything he said just made me laugh. so what if he was 20? that shows that he really wanted to graduate. i really respect him for that. i am also friends with lauren. i just want to ask if everyone would pray for james' family and for jeremy and his family. i know he is doing much better, but still keep him in your prayers.

  • rachael Apr 19, 2007

    Lauren honey, this is your cousin Rachael, in the UK. Ignore the ignorance of people who have negative comments to make. Remember the good things about James. I'll always remember him as the lil boy who's nappies i used to change when i was 12 years old.. 'cos it's been a long time since i saw you all. But of course, lots of time has passed since. Give my love to your mum & dad.. & i send it to you & your brothers too. God bless, Lauren.

  • lauren cook Apr 17, 2007

    Hi my name is lauren cook and i am james cooks sister.if all you people can do is concentrate on the negative aspects of this horrible accident that has put my family through hell, then you seriously need to get a damn life. lets not focus on trivial crap like how old james was...lets instead focus on how he brightened peoples lives. james was a great man and a good friend...most importantly, he was my big brother and i looked up to him!

  • Jackaroo Apr 9, 2007

    This was a car crash caused by a young man, who for whatever reason, ran a red light, with no seat belt on. He obviously did not intend to do this, but this wreck obviously was avoidable. There are lessons here to be learned to reduce the chance of it happening again. That simple.

  • camshore Apr 9, 2007

    I'm appalled at how heartless some of you are. You say that these students need a reality check...well you know what? They got a reality check the minute they found out their classmate, their best friend, their prom date...was dead. I graduated from PHS and I saw what that school went through when my brother and two of his friends died 11 years ago. And now I'm seeing that same pain in the people I went to school with just last year. Their lives will never be the same...they'll remember this forever. So how dare you add to their pain? Or try to take away from James's memory? This was an accident. And things like this happen. It doesn't make it right and you may not agree, but you showing your ass on here will not bring James back and it most definitely will not help anyone at PHS. I don't expect any of you to understand this until you have to go through something this painful so please just keep your thoughts to yourself unless you want to offer sympathy.

  • alyssaannehoughtaling Apr 7, 2007

    speaking as one of james's old best friends((time makes people grow apart)) and as the second person to know him when he moved to this town, i think that everyone who didnt know james on a personal level should keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves. we lost a friend that cannot be replaced and a hole that will never be filled and thats all that matters. and the wonderful thing about him is that if he knew the people that were running their mouths, were, he wouldnt even care b/c he didnt care about anybody's opinion but those he loved.face it james was cooler than any of you.

  • anonemoose Apr 7, 2007

    It's obvious that the parents, students and friends at this school are about as responsive as the equal group at Wakefield. How many will have to die when a simple choice to do otherwise would have made a world of difference? And when will you express ANY concern for the ultimate victim, the driver of the other vehicle.
    To read the most of the student's comments show how well they are being taught. They treat a public forum as they would a IM chat or text message. Abbreviations and slang should not be used on a public forum. Are you going to write business reports to your supervisor stating that "4 ppl layed out 2day, 1 1hr L8" instead of "four employees absent, one tardy"?
    High school students declare themselves as "grown up", but forget the responsibility that comes with it.

  • short stuff Apr 6, 2007

    I hope that james would come back. He was more like a brother 2 me. Cuz most the time he was at our house with my big brother. He was the most best friends with him. James did not deserve this.....But sometimes bad things happen to the wrong people.I MISS U JAMES :(
    PS: to all the people that are not on his side.... you made a bad choice.

  • JermJones Apr 6, 2007

    well thank you for sayin that rainy39 that was really nice of you yea i guess those other ppl will never get it throgh there head that james was doin something good for a friend and just ended up really bad ppl at priceton really loved james an we'll miss him dearly.