Local News

Student Killed on Way to Pick Up Prom Tux

Posted April 5, 2007 10:41 a.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2007 5:59 p.m. EDT

— 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.