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Thomson mourns student's death

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2002

The same day Thomson High school students were scheduled to pay tribute to a classmate killed in a car accident earlier in the year, they had to mourn the loss of another killed the day before.

Ryan Rodgers, a junior at Thomson High, died Monday evening after the vehicle he was in swerved off the road and hit several trees, authorities said.

Justin Churchy, 18, also a passenger, was released Tuesday afternoon from the Medical College of Georgia and John McCorkle, 18, the driver of the vehicle, was in serious condition, said Steve Padgett, spokesman for Medical College of Georgia Hospitals.

The students were on their way to a computer class at the Augusta Technical College satellite campus in Thomson when the one-car accident occurred, Georgia State Trooper John Freeman said.

Officials said the students were three of 14 in that class, which counts toward a two-year certificate.

The day after the accident, school officials passed out the yearbooks and had a ceremony. The parents of Dillon Widener - who was killed in a head-on collision in December - were given a copy of the yearbook. In it is a dedication to Dillon.

School officials said students spent the day talking to counselors and to each other. A group of friends painted a message to Ryan on a rock, promising to never forget him.

At the scene of the accident, about 50 yards from the Augusta Technical campus, Travis Taylor hold his camera and takes pictures of where the accident occurred. Taylor, who graduate from Thomson High in 2002, said he knows all three of students from school and had Ryan in a few classes.

"I've known him since I was at the middle school," Taylor said. "He was just an old friend."

Taylor said when Widener died, students placed flowers on his assigned parking space and even left memorials at the scene of the accident. He expects the same type of reaction to Ryan's death.

A search for answers may never come for those asking why. The accident report issued by the Georgia State Patrol offered few new details. It shows the projected chain of events that sent the car flying. It says the car flipped "several times for 98 feet" before being stopped by the trees.

Thomson High School Principal Bill Reese said the search for answers may best be left alone.

"You can't try to figure out why something like this happen," he said. "All you can do is try to keep going."


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