Classmates remember GW freshman killed in crash
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --More than a thousand students and parents crowded onto George Washington High's football field clutching candles and sobbing over a young life lost.
They gathered Sunday evening at a candlelight vigil for Drew Morton, 14, who died only hours earlier from injuries sustained in a car crash.
The video board at Steve Edwards Sr. Field showed pictures of Drew, a freshman, in his football gear at John Adams Middle and George Washington High interspersed with the words "Forever remembered, forever missed," and "Always in our thoughts, forever in our hearts."
Jennifer Jackfert, a counselor at the high school, said the large turnout showed how supportive the George Washington community is in good times and bad.
"It's amazing how the community can come together in good times and in tragic times like today," Jackfert said. "We all have a heavy heart."
Students from several of the surrounding schools also came to South Hills to show support for the young lineman.
Charleston police responded just after 11:15 a.m. Sunday to a single vehicle crash off Quarry Ridge Road. Officers found the 2006 Lexus convertible coupe over the hillside on its top.
Lt. Shawn Williams, said the driver, a 15-year-old boy whose name has not been released, was driving the convertible when he lost control, struck a utility pole and a tree on the edge of the road before flipping the vehicle over the hillside.
The driver was wearing a seatbelt and was restrained in the crash. He had no visible injuries, Williams said.
Drew was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. He died from his injuries at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital.
Williams said charges are pending the investigation. The teen driver had a learner's permit, which allows 15-year-olds to practice driving if accompanied by a licensed adult driver. Another stipulation of driving with a learner's permit is that all occupants of the vehicle must wear seatbelts.
The boys were alone in the vehicle, and Drew was not wearing a seatbelt.
Drew was an offensive and defensive tackle for the Patriots. The driver also is a player on the team, said those who attended the vigil.
Assistant Coach John "Buster" Bush described Drew as a friendly boy with lots of energy.
"He had a lot of energy and was always ready to go," Bush said. "Even though he was a freshman he still was respected by the upperclassmen and the seniors.
"We're a family and we'll be with his family for whatever they need."
Head Coach Steve Edwards Jr. told the crowd to lean on each other for support and to remember Drew.
"We're all going to miss Drew, his smiling face, his energy," Edwards said. "He'll never be forgotten."
Principal George Aulenbacher urged the students and parents to remember Drew and his family.
His sister, a junior at the high school, attended the vigil and cried openly as she was engulfed in hugs.
Many of the students were in shock as they signed a large banner with Drew's picture, offering words of friendship, love and support.
They held their candles and talked amongst themselves, some talking about the last time they spoke to him, or something funny he did in class.
Some cried and held on to each other in disbelief.
Savannah Randolph and Alyssa Settle, both 14, had known Drew since kindergarten.
Alyssa said Drew had a great sense of humor and was always nice. She said he "just acted goofy" sometimes to cheer them up.
"He was really nice," Savannah said. "He used to be a like a big brother, you know, he would always take up for us if anyone was picking on us.
"He would tell them 'Don't be mean; it's not nice,'" she recalled before being wrapped up into another hug from a student.
Jackfert said grief counselors would be at the school Monday in addition to the school's counselors, nurse and teachers. Information on funeral arrangements was not immediately available.