GENEVA, Ala. — Three 16-year-olds were killed and a fourth was seriously injured when a vehicle left a road and ran into trees on Christmas night in south Alabama, authorities said Thursday.
The dead were all cheerleaders at Geneva High School, said Geneva County Coroner Donny Adkinson.
The police chief posted on social media asking for prayers, and a church opened its sanctuary to the grieving community.
“It’s just awful,” said Adkinson.
Geneva, a town of about 4,400 people, is located near the Florida line more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Montgomery.
Adkinson said Addyson Martin, Emilee Fain, Cassidy Dunn and two other friends had been together for Christmas at someone’s home and were headed elsewhere in small sport-utility vehicle that left a road and crashed into trees.
Martin, Fain and Dunn all died at the scene, Adkinson said. “The three that were deceased were in the front seat of the car,” he said.
Another girl who was in the car was seriously injured and was rushed to a hospital in Birmingham by helicopter ambulance, he said, and the fifth girl wasn’t seriously injured.
Lt. Michael McDuffie, a spokesman for the Geneva Police Department, said doctors expect the girl who was injured to recover.
The vehicle carrying the students ran off a road which crosses a levee that protects the town from flooding, he said.
“We’re not sure for what reason they lost control, but it hit a big oak tree,” McDuffie said. “It could have been a deer ran out in front of them.”
A photograph from WTVY-TV showed the vehicle on a wrecker with the roof apparently peeled away. Police Chief Tony Clemmons posted on the department’s Facebook page asking people to pray for several families in town.
The city school system announced on Facebook that First Baptist Church of Geneva was opening its sanctuary, and ministers and counselors would be available to students and families.