Friends remember two teens killed in weekend wreck
They should have been gathering to celebrate the closing of the old year and the dawning of the new.
Instead, beneath a bleak gray sky along Little River Church Road on a chilly New Year’s Eve, more than two dozen friends and relatives wept or stood in somber silence at a makeshift memorial for Kacie Chamberlain and Chase Underhill.
The teens died about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night when the Ford F-250 that Underhill was driving veered off the road and struck a tree.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol on Monday charged Collin Parker Lunsford, 17, in connection with the wreck. Lunsford, of 2500 Little River Church Road, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, one count of prearranged speed competition, and one count of reckless driving, according to Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman.
Ashley Murphy played softball with Kacie Chamberlain on the Orange High School team. She and another friend, Anna Lisa Lynn, set up a Facebook page in memory of Kacie Chamberlain and Chase Underhill within hours after the accident.
“I was just sitting on Facebook when a friend texted me and told me what happened,” Murphy said on Monday. “I didn’t believe it at first. These were people you’d never expect that to happen to.”
Murphy said that she had known Chamberlain since middle school. She was also on the high school shooting team with Underhill, who was an avid hunter.
She knew Lunsford, too. He was the ex-boyfriend of Underhill’s girlfriend, Devon Chamberlain, who was Kacie’s cousin, Murphy said.
“Devon lost a cousin and a boyfriend that night,” she said. “I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now.”
For Murphy, the year ends as tragically as it began. Her cousin, Samantha Tilley, died in a car wreck in February.
“It’s been a really hard year,” she said.
Two other teens from the truck that investigators said Underhill was driving survived Saturday’s accident. McCray Williams, 15, and Sam Whaley, 16, were treated for their injuries at Duke University Medical Center. Troopers reported that Underhill and his passengers weren’t wearing seat belts as they raced down Little River Church Road and lost control.
Lisa Morris on Monday remembered Underhill as a hero. Two years ago, at Busco Lake, Underhill and Whaley worked together to save the life of Morris’s 24-year-old son, Lance Parrish, when he nearly drowned.
“Lance is normally a great swimmer, but he gave out this time and went under,” Morris recalled. “Sam and Chase saw him going under and swam over to him, pulled him from under the water and they both swam, pulling him safely to shore.”
Underhill, son of Durham County Emergency Management Services official Kevin Underhill, used cardiopulmonary resuscitation to push the water from Parrish and made sure he was breathing until the ambulance arrived.
About seven and a half months ago, Parrish had a son, Layken, with Whaley’s sister, Ashley.
That child wouldn’t exist today if not for Underhill and Whaley, Morris said.
“I told them they were my heroes and that is exactly what they will be to me forever: my heroes,” she said.
At the crash site, a pink cross with a placard reading “Carolina Girl” and a pink tiara stands in tribute to Kacie Chamberlain. Next to that stands a camouflage cross honoring Chase Underhill, with a black cowboy hat dangling from it. A mound of pink, white and red flower bouquets rose before the crosses as friends and relatives wept or stood in stunned silence, remembering.
“We’re praying for all of the kids involved and affected by this,” said Beth Underhill, Chase’s stepmother.
It promises to be a difficult week for students returning to Orange High School after the holiday break. Tonight, New Horizons Church hosts a memorial service for Chase Underhill, with a funeral on Wednesday. On Thursday, the church also holds a service for Kacie Chamberlain, with a funeral on Friday.
“Chase and Kacie were extremely popular at school,” said Lynn, who worked with Murphy to start the Facebook page. She had known Chase and Kacie since kindergarten, she said. “They had tons of friends. Everybody loved them. It’s going to be sad when we go back and they’re not there.”