Three Valley Mills ISD students die in crash on their way to school

Posted at 10:01 AM, Mar 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:31:29-04

Two women and three young girls died after a two-vehicle crash on Highway 6 near Clifton on Monday morning while on their way to school. 

The Department of Public Safety officials identified the women as Janith Murphree, 48, of Clifton, and Lavira Hallmark, 66. The three girls, aged 8, 9, and 13 who attended Valley Mills ISD schools were not identified. School officials said that one elementary student and one junior high student were siblings.  

"We are deeply saddened to inform you that three of our students passed away this morning in an automobile accident on the way to school," Valley Mills Independent School District Mike Kelly said. "We extend our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the Hallmark and Murphree families and their friends, as they will certainly be in our thoughts and prayers." 

Valley Mills ISD had crisis counselors at their campuses helping students and staff cope with the loss of three of their members.

"We spent four hours trying to figure out how to tell elementary students. I mean how do you tell second and third graders that one of their friends passed away. There is no good answer," Kelly said.

He also said the community is supporting the families affected by this tragedy.

"We can't imagine what they are going through. What we can do is support them and know that we love them and know that we are a big family. And know that we are going to do everything in our power to help those families out,"

The activities at Junior High were canceled on Monday, a day that Kelly describes as a whirlwind.

"I haven't really had a chance to sit and think how I'm feeling. I'm more thinking about how my students and staff are feeling. That's where the focus has been. I'm sure when I have the chance to reflect on it a little bit more, it will sink in. It has been a terrible day," Kelly said.

DPS said it happened at 7:27 a.m., 2.1 miles from Clifton.

According to troopers, a Nissan passenger van driven by Murphree and a Ford pickup driven by Steven Penney, 39, was traveling southbound on Highway 6. The driver of the van attempted to make a U-turn, driving into the path of the truck, DPS said.

The two women and two of the girls in the van died in the crash. The third girl was taken to Goodall Witcher Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The driver of the pickup truck was sent to the hospital with non-incapacitating injuries.

DPS said no charges are currently being filed as a result of the crash. 

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