SALUDA, S.C. (WIS) - Two high school students died and one was seriously hurt in a crash in Saluda County on Monday night.
It happened around 10:15 p.m. on Long Road off of U.S. 378 (Columbia Highway), according to South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Officials say the driver of a Chevrolet truck ran off the road and hit a tree.
Three Saluda High School students were in the truck that crashed. Two of them were brothers.
The coroner identified the teens who died as 17-year-old Drayton Black, who owned the truck, and 16-year-old Jaden Coleman.
Black was a senior and Coleman was a junior, the coroner said. They both died at the scene.
The back seat passenger, identified by family as Kadius Coleman, was rushed to an area hospital. His mother told WIS he had surgery Tuesday and is awake and talking, but still undergoing tests and not out of the woods yet.
No one in the truck was wearing a seat belt, Highway Patrol said.
Students and friends have been gathering at the tree where it happened Tuesday, hugging, crying and praying together. There’s a makeshift memorial there where many have left flowers.
“I was headed to Drayton’s house to see his family and I saw everyone here and decided to stop,” Grace Moore, a friend of the victims, said. “It made it a little more real I guess because I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I still can’t.”
They also found things like phones, wallets and other personal items of two of their close friends they will never see again.
“You don’t believe it and you don’t want to believe it," Kelby Rogers, a friend of the victims, said. “And then you get out here and you look at it and you start finding pieces of their lives kind of scattered, and you’re like maybe it is real.”
One of the students said Saluda County is like a family and they feel like they have lost two brothers that they will never forget.
Grief counselors, and pastors who knew the boys, went to Saluda High School on Tuesday to help students affected by this tragedy.
“Anytime your phone rings after midnight a piece of your gut starts to hurt and I was just afraid that it wasn’t good and it wasn’t,” Pastor Trey Shealy said. “You go numb and time stops and you don’t know what to do.”
Shealy, who knew both Black and Jaden Coleman, said they both had personalities that filled every room.
The superintendent said they will offer additional counseling through the rest of this week.
“It’s hard because you have people who are very close to Jaden and Drayton, and then you have kids who really didn’t know them but it’s the first time they’ve ever experienced losing somebody and kids don’t really know how to react to that, none of us do, death is a hard thing to deal with,” Shealy said.
Officials said they don’t know what caused the crash and they are looking into numerous things. The accident is being reconstructed as Highway Patrol and the coroner continue to investigate.