OCONEE COUNTY, Ga. — Just days before graduation, the University of Georgia is dealing with a loss to their college community. Four UGA students were killed in a car wreck, and one more was critically injured.
The crash happened along a rural highway just south of Watkinsville in Oconee County late Wednesday night.
Troopers with the Georgia Highway Patrol told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot that a Toyota Camry with five young women was heading north on Highway 15 and for some reason, the vehicle crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming car.
The victims are identified as
. The driver of the Camry, Agnes Kim, 21, of Snellville, remains hospitalized at Athens Regional Medical Center.
The driver of a Chevrolet Cobalt, Abby Short, 27, of Demorest, was injured, transported to Athens Regional Medical Center and released.
Neighbors say the impact was so loud, it sounded like someone set off a stick of dynamite.
“All of a sudden, we heard tires squealing and then there was a horrendous crash,” said Mark Thomas, whose barbecue restaurant is about a half-mile away.
Thomas told Elliot he was in the parking lot when he heard the collision.
He and his friend rushed to the scene.
“We saw the two vehicles and then, so, then my friend called 911 immediately and I went out and started looking to see if there was anything I could do,” Thomas said.
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But there wasn't.
Troopers pronounced three of the UGA students dead on the scene, and one later died at the hospital.
All of the women in the Toyota were wearing seatbelts except for Semeria, who was seated behind Kim, according to the GSP.
Semeria was ejected in the crash, which remained under investigation. No details were released on a possible cause of crash, but alcohol was not a factor, GSP told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Out of respect for the victims' families, Thomas declined to talk about what he saw in that wreckage, but he says those families were the first thing on his mind.
“Seeing the young children there. They're about the same age as my daughter, so I was trying to think what I would do if I was one of their parents,” Thomas said.
Other Oconee County residents stopped at the crash site to send condolences to the families.
“We pray for the families and our hearts are with them,” said Debbie Ondic.
“Very sad. People are in shock,” Lisa Anderson told Elliot.
Thomas told Elliot he'll never forget what he saw that night.
“To lose a child, you never want to bury your own child, and so my heart goes out to all the family and the, just all the parents, it was such a tragedy,” Thomas said.
The deadly crash deeply impacted the Oconee County sheriff as well.
"This is a true tragedy. I have a son graduating college this month and this hurts,” Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said.
"All of us in the University community today are devastated, grieving," UGA President Jere Morehead said. "None of us can imagine what the families are going through."
Gov. Nathan Deal ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Thursday. He said simply, "Today, we are all Bulldogs."
Troopers did say alcohol was not a factor in this crash.
Cox Media Group