'Great kids' mourned after Unity crash; sole survivor in fair condition
UNITY — As the sole survivor of the triple-fatal car crash on West Unity Road recovers from her injuries, a community is in mourning.
“It’s really affected the community, all the children. They were just great kids,” Jack McClay, owner of Out of the Ordinary pizza restaurant in Claremont, said. “It’s touched a lot of lives.”
Recent Stevens High School graduate Brittany Bailey, 18, of Claremont and 17-year-olds Brandon Rock and Jonathan Varnum Jr., who were to have been Stevens seniors this fall, died in the crash early Sunday morning.
Selena Carrier, 17, of Claremont, is in fair condition at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
Carrier is also a Stevens High School student, SAU #6 Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said on Monday.
In response to the tragedy, McGoodwin opened a counseling center Monday morning at the Sugar River Valley Regional Tech Center in Claremont, where SAU guidance and administrative staff and West Central Behavioral Health were available to any grieving member of the community.
“Everyone who has a child or cares about children is impacted by this,” McGoodwin said. “Something like this is one of the greatest nightmares of any parent or community member.”
McGoodwin said staff became aware that many of the students affected were going directly to the crash site in Unity, so many counselors went there to help students. McGoodwin said he also spent several hours at the crash site, where a memorial has been created for the students.
McGoodwin said he thinks a memorial service for students would be appropriate once school resumes in two weeks, but only if the families find it appropriate as well.
“We are very sensitive to the impact this has had on the community and we are ready to respond accordingly,” McGoodwin said.
McClay said the whole community is saddened, but he is especially grieving Rock and Varnum.
Rock was the son of his wife’s cousin’s son, he said. “Sweet kid, always laughing, always smiling. I don’t remember a time that he was every upset about anything.”
Varnum was an employee of McClay’s pizza restaurant. McClay said he had known Varnum for 10 years and the teen had three little sisters who adored him.
“He was just a salt-of-the-earth kid. Just a wonderful person. Lit up the room when he walked in. Everybody loved him,” McClay said. “Some of the kids that went to school with him, the employees here at work, they all loved Jon. He was just an amazing person. The world is really missing something.”
The 17-year-olds were good friends who shared a love of cars.
McClay said he started the memorial of candles and flowers at the crash site.
Teens who gathered there Sunday evening did a memorial procession of vehicles through Unity and Claremont, he said.
And because Carrier’s car was still parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot, the teens also covered Carrier’s car with flowers.
Many of the teens are also volunteering to remove the tree and car debris from the crash site as soon as it is appropriate, he said.
“God bless the kids and the families; we’re giving them our prayers and thoughts,” McClay said.
There has also been an outpouring from the community online.
“My heart hurts. I’m sad. I’m confused as to why such great people get taken from us, let alone at such a young age,” said a friend of Bailey’s, Tori Lynn, on Facebook.
State police responded to the crash at 2:10 a.m. Sunday.
Police said the black 1997 Saab 9000 was traveling northbound on West Unity Road at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control, striking a tree and splitting the Saab in two separate pieces.
The collision also brought down the 150-year-old oak in the front yard of Larry and Diana Owen’s home, 758 West Unity Road.