Local News

Counselors Help Rescue Workers, Students at Zebulon Middle School Cope With Second Tragedy In 2 Weeks

Posted April 5, 2000

— Amemorial fundhas been established for four children who died in a car accident Wednesday afternoon and for the driver of the SUV, who is struggling to live.

Officials say the SUV ran a stop sign and pulled in front of a truck at a rural crossroads near Kenly.

One of the victims was a student at Zebulon Middle School, where students were alreadymourning the loss of another friend.

For the second time in two weeks, students and staff at the school are forced to face a tragedy.

On March 25, a student died by apparently hanging himself in a school locker room.

In Wednesday's accident, sixth-grader Steven Lee Strickland who attended Zebulon Middle School and his sister, Briana, a Zebulon Elementary School student, were among the four children who were killed in the accident at a rural crossroads near Kenly.

Crisis counselors have talked to students at both Zebulon Elementary School and Zebulon Middle School.

"We've had about 40 to 50 children that we have seen in our crisis center," says Mike Chappell, principal of Zebulon Elementary School.

Zebulon Middle School principal John Wall says a number of students and teachers have felt the need to meet with counselors as well.

"When kids come to school, they have friends. And friends are affected by the sudden death of a classmate," Wall says. "We have the things in place to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude. We just hope something like this won't happen again."

Tricia Palmer, a grief counselor, says parents should listen to their children.

"Be available for your children to communicate with you, but don't push them if they don't want to," Palmer says. "Don't force them to discuss it with you. Just keep letting them know that you are available for discussion."

Taylor Ellis, 3, of Zebulon also died in the accident, as did Chastity Knox, 8, of Laurens, S.C.

Driver Christy Sullivan, 28, and 12-year-old Kevin Watts were taken by helicopter to Duke University Medical Center. Sullivan is listed in critical condition, and Watts is listed in fair condition.

No charges have been filed in the case. TheHighway Patrolsays it is still investigating the accident. Rescue Workers Deal With Emotions of AccidentsMajor accidents affect a lot of people, including the rescue workers who are often the first ones on the scene. They say crashes involving children are especially tough.

Kenly EMTs Judy Aycock and Patsy Ward have nearly 20 years of experience dealing with the emotions of accidents, but even that did not prepare them for Wednesday's two-car accident, which left four children dead.

On the job, they say they do their best to stay composed, but once they are finished, it is a different story.

"You basically go into robot. Your training kicks in," Aycock says. "You do what you have to do. You focus on each patient at a time with the main objective of doing the best you can, but yesterday, there were just so many kids."

"You view children as someone that you just really need to protect and care for, and in an instance like this, you are absolutely helpless," Ward says.

For the rescue workers who need help to cope, grief counselors are available as well.

Memorial Fund

There has been a memorial fund set up for the families of the children who died and the driver, who is struggling to live.

Donations can be sent to:State Employees Credit Union of Zebulon536 West Gannon AvenueZebulon, NC 27597Account# 2021857


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