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LHS senior dies in accident

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Was part of helping relaunch Collage magazine

By John Barnhart

On Thursday morning students at Liberty High School took the time to sign posters to give to the family of Chase Landon Jones, the 18-year-old Liberty High School senior who died as the result of injuries suffered during a single-car accident on Bell Town Road in Bedford Wednesday afternoon.

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    For the students it was a chance to begin the grieving process of losing a fellow classmate. His funeral was held Monday in Bedford.

    The wreck, which claimed the life of Jones of Thaxton, occurred around 2:05 p.m. Two other teenagers were injured in the accident: the car’s driver, Dewey Lee Myles Perkins, 19, who was taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital by helicopter; and Kristopher Meader, 18, of Montvale who was also taken to Roanoke Memorial. Rescue and fire personnel worked for more than an hour at the scene to get everyone out of the vehicle.

    All   three    were   students from Liberty High School.

    The accident occurred near the intersection of Bell Town and Draper roads. The car, a 2000 Dodge Intrepid, was westbound when it ran off the right side of the road and struck a tree head on. A crash investigation team with the Virginia State Police was back at the scene of the accident Thursday.

    Jones, who was riding in the front seat, was pronounced dead at the scene. According to Sgt. Rob Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police, Jones was not wearing his seat belt.

    The crash remains under investigation. As of Thursday morning, no charges had been filed. A representative of the Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office was called to the scene Wednesday as well.

    Also at the scene were representatives from Liberty High School as well as School Superintendent Dr. James Blevins. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man after this extremely tragic incident,” stated Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator with the school system, adding that a full complement of counselors was made available to students at Liberty High School on Thursday.

    Edwards said the school’s crisis response team was deployed to LHS and would remain on campus as long as the need is there. That team included counselors, special services personnel and others who could help the students and faculty deal with the incident.

    Dr. Cherie Whitehurst, principal at LHS, said faculty met early Thursday morning to discuss the loss and to take time to reflect before facing the students who had lost their classmate the day before.  “It was a tremendous loss,” Whitehurst said of Chase’s death. “It was such a shock.”

    She said Chase would be missed by both the students and faculty. “Many teachers were close to Chase and they’ve taken it quite hard.” They had to prepare themselves to be ready to help the students.  “That’s why we went into education. We’re here for the students; we’re here for the community.”

    Chase, Whitehurst said, could always be seen with a smile on his face. She said the senior had been involved helping to revive the Collage magazine at the school. Collage, the multi-award winning literary magazine of Liberty High School, garnered national recognition last month at the annual CSPA Conference held by Columbia University in Manhattan. Collage placed third for best cover design in 2008 and fourth for best illustration.  For the school it was a tremendous honor, considering the publication was competing against schools who have a long-established history with scholastic press, while the LHS publication has only been in publication for two years after having a 10-year hiatus.

    Chase also was a member of the school’s guitar club.

    “You take it one day at a time,” Whitehurst said of the school dealing with the loss. “We’re going to really miss Chase.”

    Whitehurst knows it takes time. The school lost one of its students last year before graduation and she also was principal at Staunton River High School when that school lost several students in automobile accidents.

    “You want so much to make them feel better,” she said of the student body.

    She noted Chase’s sense of humor as well as his caring for other students.

    Dan Isaacs, who taught Chase computer classes for two years, said the student body was subdued and in a state of shock Thursday. “He did make a difference in a lot of lives at the school,” Isaacs said.

    He added he could hear the students talking to each other about the last conversations they had with Chase. “I have no doubt that the student body will be able to bounce back,” he said. “Chase was able to lighten their days — brighten their days.”

    Mark Day, the LHS department head for social studies, said Chase was fun, intuitive and bright. He said the accident also serves as a reminder for students to drive safe and wear their seat belts.