GRAYSON - Five young people died in three separate wrecks over the weekend.
In the first incident, 20-year-old Amber Elise Worley of Snellville was riding with her friend, Ryan Dawson Hunter, 20, also of Snellville, on Interstate 16 in Macon at 3:40 p.m. Saturday when Hunter apparently lost control of his truck, The Macon Telegraph reported. The truck apparently swerved off the road and struck a tree, then overturned and caught fire.
Worley and Hunter died at the scene. Worley was a former Grayson High School student who was learning to become a cosmetologist at Salon J. Christian in Stone Mountain.
Later on Saturday evening, 14-year-old Shaan Patel, a freshman at Grayson High School, was killed in a head-on collision. The tragedy came right before final exams started for Patel's high school friends and classmates.
The school held a moment of silence for him Monday.
Counselors and social workers were also available throughout the day to comfort Patel's friends and acquaintances, said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the school system. They will also be working with students today and Wednesday.
In some cases, final exams may be postponed for particularly grief-stricken students.
"The counselors are working with any students who need assistance," Roach said. "They're working with students on an individual basis."
Exam stress and the end of the school year made it difficult to properly mourn Patel at the school, according to some Grayson students Monday. Seniors were getting ready to graduate Wednesday, while other students were poring over their biology and English textbooks.
"I don't know how many people really know him," freshman Paula Cox, 14, said. "I think it might be the combination of the timing and a lot of people not really knowing him. But I definitely think exams were a factor."
Patel died at the scene Saturday after the wreck. His 17-year-old brother, Neel Patel, had been driving on Herring Road in Grayson when he attempted to pass another vehicle.
It appeared his 1990 Acura lost control and collided with a 2005 Ford Expedition that was traveling in the opposite direction, according to Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.
"He was passing to the right on the area of the roadway that was not designed as a travel or through lane," Moloney said.
The driver was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he is in serious condition.
Just a few miles away on Pinehurst Road, two other young men died Sunday morning in a third car accident. Ronald McGraw, 24, had been driving three other people when his car failed to negotiate a curve and drove off the roadway, Moloney said. The vehicle landed in a ditch.
The passengers included 19-year-old Matthew Bongiovani, who died along with the driver at the scene. The two back seat passengers, 18-year-old Christina McGraw and 20-year-old Robert White, survived and were taken to the Gwinnett Medical Center. They were in serious condition, but are expected to survive their injuries, Moloney said.
Police were continuing to investigate the cause of the serious accidents, and Moloney said excessive speed was a factor in both of them.
Chantae Martin, a junior at Grayson who is friends with Christina McGraw, said there seem to be a lot of deaths at the school. But she was confident her friend would be OK.
"Fate happens," Martin, 17, said. "She will be fine. She's strong. She's little but she's strong."
For some Grayson students, the deaths made them think about their own mortality.
"It's so sad. It's terrible. You know they're so young and dying," said Christina Garner, an 18-year-old junior.
The tragic accidents over the weekend came all too soon for a school still mourning a horrible wreck which left the student body reeling three years ago. On Oct. 9, 2003, three female students were riding in a van on Hope Hollow Road when it veered off the road and struck a tree.
Two of the girls, 16-year-old Susan Boyes and 15-year-old Mallory Neeley, died at the scene. The driver, Lindsey Groff, 16, passed away in the hospital several days later. Groff was a cheerleader, and all three girls were well-known in the hallways, their former classmates said.