SRHS students killed in crash identified

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The Staunton River High School community is mourning the loss of two students who died in an accident Wednesday morning.


The two-vehicle crash on Va. 24, about four miles west of the school, also sent two others to the hospital. The students were on their way to school.

The Virginia State Police is continuing its investigation into the tragic crash that claimed the lives of Jacob Henry Baird, 17, of Thaxton and Katie Thurston, 16, of Vinton.

The accident occurred around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday on Va. 24 at the intersection of Route 653, Masons Lane.

According to the VSP, the 2000 black Ford Mustang, driven by Baird, was traveling on Route 653 when he attempted to make a left turn onto Va. 24, pulling out into the path of a 2000 Ford F-250 pick up truck that was traveling westbound on Va. 24. Baird was wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash but was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Thurston, a rear seat passenger in the Mustang, was not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash and she was also pronounced dead at the scene, according to VSP.

Two other passengers in the Mustang—Shawn Hall, 19, of Vinton, and Gradon Lewis Graybill, 18, of Blue Ridge, both were transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. It is unknown at this time if they were wearing safety belts prior to the crash.

One was airlifted to Carilion, the other was transported by ambulance.

The driver of the F-250 pick up truck William Orr, 49, of Vinton, was wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash. He was treated at the scene for minor injuries. The Virginia State Police accident reconstruction team is assisting in the crash investigation.
No further information regarding the crash is available at this time.

The staff and the students at SRHS were made aware of the tragedy Wednesday morning, according to Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator with Bedford County Public Schools.

“Our crisis team deployed this morning upon learning of these events,” Edwards said. “Additional counselors are on hand to help students and staff deal with the tragic loss of their friends, classmates and students.”