RALEIGH-- A car wreck last Friday prevented four Broughton High seniors from starting school Monday.
Authorities said two of the girls suffered serious injuries when the driver ran off the road and flipped her SUV into a field which ejected three of the girls from the vehicle.
"We're just praying hard and hoping everything works out well. Just all you can do is hope," said Ben Lease, a Broughton High senior and longtime friend of the four girls involved in the accident.
Last Friday, North Carolina State Highway Patrol said the driver, Anne Crone, 17, and her three passengers, Tessa Jones, 17, Jane Fountain, 18, and Grace Barnard, 17, were traveling on highway four near Roanoke Rapids when the driver over-corrected and flipped her SUV.
Everyone except the driver, who was the only one wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car.
"The driver had the seat belt on, thank God, and she was the first to come out and be home," said Will Maness, a Broughton High senior and friend of the girls in the accident.
On Monday, Maness and Lease passed out ribbons and held a prayer circle on behalf of the cross country runners. Fountain remains in critical condition and Jones suffered a broken back.
"It's definitely on everyone's mind,” reflected Lease. “It's a different way to start school."
With over a thousand student drivers at Broughton High, principal Stephen Mares said the one positive outcome of this crash is the critical message it'll send to all young drivers about playing it safe behind the wheel.
"Be safe in the car. We preach that all the time,” said Mares. “You know no taking chances of seat-belts, too many kids in the car."
So far this year, Highway Patrol said there's been nearly 4,050 personal injury collisions involving students ages 17 and under in the state compared to over 4,320 personal injury collisions involving students ages 17 and under during the same time frame last year.
"Not wearing your seat belt and it's the law to wear it. It will protect you," said Sgt. Jeff Gordon with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, who said contributing factors also include over-correcting.
With an accident hitting close to home, students like Lease and Maness are already taking precautions.
"There's no need to go that fast. It's not worth it," said Lease.
According to Mares, at least one of the injured students may be able to return to school before the end of the week. The Child Fatality Task Force said supervised driving with an adult helps reduce crashes amongst young drivers.
Highway Patrol is working on educating students and parents across the state about the precautions they can take to avoid accidents.