The mood at Elkhart High School was somber Monday and extra counselors were on hand to help students and faculty cope with the tragic death of a popular student in an early Saturday morning wreck.
Seventeen-year-old Cheyenne Elizabeth Franklin of Elkhart was killed in a one-vehicle rollover early Saturday morning near Elkhart.
Texas Department of Public Safety officials said Franklin was killed when the pickup she was a passenger in left the roadway and overturned on Anderson County Road 2101, 3/10 of a mile from Texas Highway 294.
According to the DPS, Hayden Blaine Gray of Palestine was driving a 2003 Dodge pickup north on ACR 2101 when he ran off the roadway and overturned.
Elkhart Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Ray DeSpain described Franklin as very popular among her friends, classmates and school staff.
“She was a very nice young lady. A very sweet girl with a very sweet disposition,” DeSpain said. “She always had a smile on her face.”
A junior at Elkhart High School, Franklin was a varsity cheerleader and played softball and volleyball for the Lady Elks. She also was a member of the National Honor Society, Interact Club and the Elkhart FFA.
“She was just a very sweet kiddo, tragically taken from us,” the superintendent added.
“We held a candlelight vigil Saturday night at the school,” DeSpain said. “We encouraged kids to go to their respective churches and visit with their ministers on Sunday.”
DeSpain said Elkhart High School counselor Robin Salazar and other outside counselors who were brought in to assist, met with high school staff early Monday morning to go over protocol and grief counseling procedures to aid the students.
“We wanted to get the kids in a normal routine as much as possible and let them grieve. For the vast majority of the kids, time is the greatest healer and we ask them to visit with family and friends.”
The wreck, which occurred at 3:28 a.m. Saturday, also injured another student, Jeffrey Wilson, 17, of Elkhart, who was a passenger in the pickup.
According to DeSpain, Wilson was pinned in the vehicle and life-flighted from the scene. A DPS report said Wilson was taken to a Tyler hospital where he was treated and released.
Wilson, a junior at Elkhart High School, is a star running back on Elkhart’s football team, and lead the Elks’ basketball team in scoring at the Slocum tournament on Thursday and Friday.
Elkhart canceled basketball games scheduled for Monday and today, and the school’s athletic teams won’t return to action until the weekend following Thanksgiving.
Elkhart ISD was releasing students at 1 p.m. today for the Thanksgiving holiday.
DeSpain asked for continued prayers for Elkhart students, staff and the community as they deal with the tragedy.
Gray, a senior at Elkhart High School, and two other passengers were not injured in the wreck, according to DPS.
Franklin, who was wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene by Anderson County Justice of the Peace Gary Thomas, the DPS said.
Wilson, who also was wearing a seat belt, was transported to Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler where he was treated and released.
Visitation with Franklin’s family will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the EHS gym.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the EHS gym with the Revs. Randall Reeves and Charles McShan officiating. Burial will follow at 3 p.m. at Chinquapin Cemetery in Walton. Arrangements are under the direction of Bailey & Foster Funeral Home.
The Cheyenne Franklin Memorial Fund has been set up at the Elkhart State Bank.
Gray “bonded out” and was released from the Anderson County Jail Saturday evening after being charged with intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor. His bond was set at $150,000 by Thomas.
The wreck is being investigated by DPS trooper Lynn Hubert of Palestine.