Photo: David McGregor Classmates of Johlonda Lindsey show emotion while they pray before the start of a candle light vigil in the honor of Lindsey on Sunday evening in front of Meadowcreek High School on Sunday evening in Norcross. Lindsey, a student at Meadowcreek died in a car wreck shortly after midnight on Steve Reynolds Blvd.
NORCROSS -- Riding in a car with his friends Saturday night on the way to a post-prom party at TGI Fridays, Evonte Cephus heard a sound "like a blown tire" in the highway up ahead.
"We stopped our car immediately, and we got out and saw the wreckage," said Cephus, 18, a Meadowcreek High School student and friend of the late Johlonda Lindsey.
Cephus said he and his friends started calling names to see who was OK. "We were shouting, trying to get them to respond," he said. "(Johlonda) was the only one whose voice we didn't hear."
The young man fought back tears as he recalled Saturday night's surreal scene where Lindsey, a 16-year-old junior at Meadowcreek, died around midnight Sunday as she and three other students were headed to a party after Saturday's prom.
Lindsey and another passenger were ejected onto Steve Reynolds Boulevard after the Trailblazer they were riding in reportedly swerved to avoid hitting a car in front of it. The car veered into oncoming traffic and was hit by a Ford Freestar, driven by Freddie Banks, according to a police report.
The report stated that Dejon Wideman drove the Chevy Trailblazer that crashed and that speed was a factor. He left the hospital on Monday and was later arrested on a vehicular homicide charge with bond set at $67,200. As of Tuesday night, he remained in the Gwinnett County Jail.
According to school officials, Wideman, 19, is a sophomore at Meadowcreek and Banks is a senior there. Two other passengers, 15-year-old Colleena Walker and 16-year-old Kendrea Walker, were also hospitalized after the crash, as was Banks.
Meadowcreek students, teachers and administrators were saddened this week by the tragedy, said Assistant Principal Adrienne Wiley. "We're doing our best right now," Wiley said. "It's a hard situation."
Principal Tommy Welch said it was indeed "a tough time" and asked the community to keep the school and victim's family in their thoughts and prayers.
Following the late-night tragedy, about 200 students, faculty members and others from the community came to the high school for a vigil on Sunday, while others left memorials where the incident occurred at Steve Reynolds Boulevard.
Track Coach Kevin Crawley, who had helped oversee the young girl in her athletic endeavors, said the vigil was a "very emotional" time for Lindsey's friends as well as her fellow track teammates.
As a track star, Crawley said, Lindsey was "on the brink of stardom."
She broke several records recently at the school for the 400-meter relay and the 800 sprint relay. "She was really about to be a breakout athlete," Crawley said.
Crawley said when people remember the young girl, they'll likely recall "her loving spirit ... when people befriended her they had a friend who would really stick up for them. She was the kind of person that always made you feel good to be around her. She knew how to make a person feel better."
Crawley added that friends of Lindsey are "doing their best to get through it."
School Board Chairman Louise Radloff, who visited the vigil on Sunday, said she was impressed by the "overwhelming support" of those who showed to mourn the loss.
"What I witnessed was the kids there with candles, crying, hugging, loving, and I was blown away by the attitudes and resolve of these students," Radloff said.
The tragic loss of Lindsey's life extended beyond the walls of Meadowcreek.
Bereaved community members visited the scene of the crash this week. Norcross residents Mike Harris and wife, Trina, drove their car up onto the curb and parked beside the memorial just inches from skid marks on the highway.
Tears rolled down Trina's cheeks as cars sped past on the busy road. The husband hugged his wife as they placed a small candle at the makeshift memorial site.
"It hurts the community to see a life lost like this ... so young," said Trina, a friend of one of the victim's families. "All you can do is just pray and hope they can get through it."
Jorge Quintana, a spokesman with the school district, said that Gwinnett County Public Schools sent a team of 10 counselors and social workers to the school upon learning of the tragedy. The counselors spoke to several classrooms and were on hand to console anybody who wanted to talk.
Visitation is scheduled 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home, 914 Scenic Highway, Lawrenceville.
The funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at New Mercies Christian Church, 4000 Five Forks Trickum Road, Lilburn.