Joseph Chance Lonergan, 18, and Madison Scottland “Scotti” Gandy, 17, were doing exactly what they loved early Sunday.
The couple planned to spend time together outdoors, bow hunting before church.
“He just loved being outside,” Lonergan’s father, Tripp, said. “She would go hunting with him.”
He said his son taught Gandy, 17, how to shoot a rifle last year and she shot her first deer last season.
Chance Lonergan picked up his girlfriend of nearly two years from her Appling home before 7 a.m. They were headed back to the Lonergan family property on the outskirts of Harlem when his 2003 Ford F-150 veered off the side of Shucraft Road. The truck started to spin and hit a driveway culvert in front of 6648 Shucraft Road. The truck went airborne and flipped over three times. Both were ejected.
Chance Lonergan was pronounced dead at the scene and Gandy died a short time later at Georgia Regents Medical Center, according to Columbia County Deputy Coroner Bonnie King.
Visitation for both of the teens will be held 5-9 p.m. Thursday at Starling Funeral Home in Harlem. Gandy’s funeral will be held in Kershaw, S.C. Chance Lonergan’s funeral service will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at Harlem Baptist Church.
Family and friends gathered at Harlem High School Sunday night to mourn the couple. They painted the spirit rock with the couple’s names over black with the red outline of a heart filling the void. In white lettering below their names was the phrase, “Forever Young.”
“It feels like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from,” said George Ashmen, a Harlem senior and friend of Chance Lonergan.
He graduated from Harlem High in the spring and was a firefighter with the Harlem Fire Department, where his father is the chief. Chance Lonergan had been volunteering as an Explorer with the department since he was 16 and was enrolled in the Firefighter I class. He also was working at Bobcat of Augusta while waiting for an opening in a welder apprentice class, according to his father.
Gandy, a volleyball player, was a senior.
Harlem High School head volleyball coach Rebekkah Bullard said Gandy was well loved by her teammates, who were making banners for her Monday night.
“She was very strong-willed, said Bullard. “When she wanted to do something, she’d do it, whether it was on the court or in life and I loved that about her.”
She and the team were reminiscing earlier in the day about her silly side, like how she sometimes wore pearls to practice.
“She was just a sweet Southern belle,” Tripp Lonergan said of Gandy.
Ashmen said he and Chance Lonergan played baseball together, and that his teammate would go out of his way to help him on the field.
“He played first base, and I was trying out for first base,” he said. “Whenever I would slip up, he would show me how to do something better or encourage me in any kind of way.”
Mark Player, a Harlem senior, remembers the first time he met Gandy.
“She had this amazing giggle and she’d laugh at everything,” he said. “We used to pick on her about it, but now I realized that I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Player said he heard the news from a friend but didn’t believe it was real. Having attended Harlem Baptist Church with Chance Lonergan, he said he got to know the couple well.
“Always together,” he said. “Always happy.”
Together and outdoors was where the couple was happiest.
“He never met a stranger,” Tripp Lonergan said of his son. “He loved the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved to be outdoors.”