They were driving to dinner in Mason, another memorable stop on the way to Monroe High School’s 2018 prom.
Four seniors about to celebrate a milestone before — in less than two weeks — they graduated from high school and began the next chapter in their lives.
It was 6:14 p.m. April 27 and there were two friends in the front seat and two in the back. You can almost hear the laughter in the car.
As they made their way along Millikin Road near Butler Warren Road — described by a neighbor as “very dangerous” — Chynna Brandon, 17, driving a 2013 Telsa, veered off the right side of the road, over-corrected, traveled into the westbound lane, into a ditch, struck a fence and sideswiped a telephone pole, according to the accident report from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
The entire accident lasted a few seconds, but its aftermath will impact those in the cars and the close-knit Monroe community for a lifetime.
April 27, 2018 will forever be a Dark Day.
One of those in the car, Kaylie Jackson, 17, who wasn’t wearing her seat belt in the back seat, was ejected and died three days later at University Cincinnati Medical Center. She would have celebrated her 18th birthday on June 17.
Everyone else in the car was hospitalized, but they were released on Sunday, two days after the accident.
Mitchell Foster Jr., 17, was sitting in the front seat when the accident occurred. He had to be extricated from the vehicle and suffered facial fractures, a broken jaw and nose and may require dental work to repair his teeth, according to his family.
Foster said he “blacked out” for about two hours and remembers nothing about the accident or being removed from the car. He woke up in the hospital.
He’s expected to recover in time to attend Ohio State University in the fall, the same place Kaylie had planned to study pre-medicine.
When news of the accident spread throughout the community and school district, some students attending prom left to comfort their classmates at the hospital. The mood was “very somber” at prom, school officials said.
In the days after the accident, officials at Monroe Schools brought in counselors and psychologists to meet with any student who needed support. On Monday, Superintendent Phil Cagwin said students were “doing as well as I could hope.”
One can only imagine the atmosphere when Kaylie’s classmates, the Class of 2018, graduate on the morning of May 19 at Princeton Pike Church of God. There probably will be an empty chair, and there won’t be a dry eye in the place when her name — Kaylie Elizabeth Jackson — is read.
Maybe, just maybe, other students will learn about the dangers of driving and how the smallest mistake can have the largest impact.
From 2012 to 2016, there were 5,353 fatalities on Ohio’s roads, according to the State Highway Patrol. Of those, 1,852, or 35 percent, were not wearing their seat belts.
Jackson was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash, according to the accident report by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Several parents said after the latest fatal accident, they addressed driving safety with their children. Kristy Duritsch, executive director of Safety Council of Southwestern Ohio, has two teeenage sons and she said their safety “is always on my mind.”
Another mother, Holli Morrish, communications director for the Talawanda Schools, said her son, a junior, attended prom this weekend. She reviewed driving speeds and being “a good influence” with her son.
When she heard about the Monroe accident her “heart broke,” she said.
“I can’t imagine hearing that news,” she said
Parenting is the toughest job out there, and it only gets more difficult when your child starts driving. You want them to spread their wings. You don’t want their wings clipped.
As a parent, there isn’t a better sound than hearing your son or daughter’s car pull into the driveway.
For one Monroe family, their daughter never returned home for what should have been one of the happiest days of her life.