Community mourns loss of student killed in car accident

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Judith Emily Wilson was not only loved and admired by many of her friends and classmates at Beaufort Academy, she was loved and admired by the adults in her life as well.

“She had great things planned for her life and wonderful things she wanted to accomplish,” Dan Durbin, head of the private school, said.

Between assemblies and activities designed to help students mourn the loss of their classmate this past week, Durbin recounted how “Emmy,” as she was known to many, was among the first students he taught when he first arrived at the school just a few years ago.

“I saw her everyday, so I got to know Emmy as a person,” he said, recounting how impressed he was with her determination. “She would just put her mind to something and get it done.”

The 16-year-old Lady’s Island resident died in a car accident on Tuesday, Dec. 17, after her 2005 Honda Civic ran off the right side of the road and struck a tree, according Lance Cpl. Tyler Tidwell with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The car was the only vehicle involved in the crash, Tidwell said.

After an autopsy was performed later in the week, the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office determined the cause of death was the crash, said Coroner Ed Allen.

Her funeral was held on Saturday, Dec. 21 at Sea Island Presbyterian Church.

Students were facing midterm exams when news of the fatal accident spread on Wednesday. The school decided to “change its mission from academics to support for its students and families,” Durbin said.

The school canceled exams and brought in grief counselors who were on hand throughout the week. It also closed early for several days before the Christmas break, so students could be with their families.

Wilson’s death has hit many at the school and in the tight-knit community surrounding it particularly hard, Durbin said. Her mother Christina, is the director of Child Abuse Prevention Association in Port Royal, and her father, Jason, is a deputy with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

Wilson’s sudden death also follows the passing of classmate, Anna Grace Dennis, who died just four months ago following an epileptic seizure. Both girls played on the softball and volleyball teams together and were “good friends,” said many at the school.

Katie Huebel, president of the school’s board of directors, said students had been experiencing the various stages of grief.

“They’ve been sad, and I can tell today they are a little bit angry and upset about what’s happening,” Huebel said, when reached by phone on Thursday, Dec. 19.

The school’s faculty were also taking it hard but were “holding each other in their arms,” she said.

“They are of course also mourning but we are together, and we are talking, and our focus has to be the kids right now,” she said.

In the meantime, Wilson is remembered for her humor, her wit and her intelligence. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Junior Class President and member of the Interact Club.

She loved “Clemson Tigers, singing, Broadway musicals, stupid videos and going to the beach, if it wasn’t too hot,” according to her online obituary. She was also a loving child and lived to make others laugh, it said.

Nick Field, the athletic director at Beaufort Academy, remembers Wilson for her sense of humor and her athleticism. Wilson played multiple sports over the years and was named most improved player in both softball and volleyball at last year’s awards banquet, he said.

“She also volunteered at school events, setting up and breaking down for those,” he said.

Above all else Wilson will be remembered for her spirit, many at the school said.

“She was just a delightful human being,” Durbin said. “She would joke and laugh and enjoyed her life. She will be greatly missed.”

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