VIENNA, Ill. — Monday was a day of prayers, healing and support at Vienna High School, after a weekend car accident took the lives of three teens and seriously injured three more in southern Illinois.
Students and staff gathered inside the high school gym that morning for an assembly to pray for the victims and console one another before gathering for a prayer circle that afternoon.
“We have been trying to keep students together as much as possible because that’s just what’s going to be needed is we’re all going to have to get through this together,” said senior Emme Treat, a chaplain of the Vienna High School Student Council.
Many students placed farewell notes on the victims’ lockers and signed posters honoring them.
“There were so many great memories that all these students had with them that I think we all need to focus on just the positive things that they impacted us,” said senior Emma Rush, president of the student council.
Illinois State Police say at about 2:46 a.m. Sunday, a vehicle was traveling westbound on Ozark Road in Johnson County when it ran off the roadway and hit a tree at the intersection of Ozark and Locust Roads. Three teens died in the accident: Aidan Baker, a Vienna High School sophomore, Brayden King, a Vienna junior, and Jordan Davidson, a Goreville senior.
Treat knew Baker particularly well, having spent time with him in one of his classes.
“He was a burst of light. His smile brightened up everyone’s day. He was the sweetest kid, and no matter if you’re having a bad day or not — one smile, one look at him — you couldn’t have a bad day anymore, “ said Treat. “He was very happy all the time and he was just sweet.”
Three other teens survived the crash but were in critical condition at St. Louis hospitals. They include Harrisburg student Macie Turvold and Vienna sophomores Max Koehler and Dylan Harris.
Dylan Harris’ stepmother, Katie, said he is on a ventilator but is stable.
“They are expecting to do two surgeries, one on his wrist and then one to fix his facial fractures that he has,” said Katie Harris. “We’re hoping to have those surgeries done by Wednesday.”
Dylan is expected to pull through. He can respond to doctors but only nonverbally.
“He’s expected to make a full recovery. It’s just going to be a really long process,” Katie said. “It was a relief to know that he’s at least responsive.”
Katie said Dylan “is just full of life” and is someone who “likes to make people laugh.” She added that the support from the community is much appreciated.
In the meantime, the students and staff at Vienna High School continue to keep all the victims in their prayers.
“It was so moving just to see students one at a time just start going around each other, and praying and supporting each other,” said Rush. “And it was just a very awesome thing to experience.”
Anyone interested in making donations to the victims’ families can call Beth Palmer, who is an advisor for the Vienna High School Student Council. Her number is 618-658-4461 and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested donors can also contact Jeri Miller at email@example.com for more information.
Donations can be mailed or brought to either Vienna High School (Attn: JoCo Strong, 601 N. First St., Vienna, IL 62995) or Goreville High School (Attn: JoCo Strong, 201 S. Ferne Clyffe Rd., Goreville, IL 62939), with checks being written to Vienna High School.
In addition, donations can be made online via https://secure.cpteller.com/terminal/portal/?op=CRASGoHwBGVo by selecting “JoCoStrong” in the dropdown menu.
Vienna High School Superintendent Joshua Stafford said they are also working on a Johnson County Strong shirt that will be sold to benefit the victims’ families. Information will be released once the design is finalized.
Furthermore, the Wildfires restaurant in Vienna says all proceeds from this Wednesday evening’s fried chicken dinners will be donated to the families. Eldorado High School in Saline County, Illinois, is collecting donations all week for the families as well.