Two teens driving home from college to visit their families in Melbourne Beach were hit by a drunk driver Thursday night. They crashed into a third vehicle and their vehicle caught fire, killing them both.
When I first heard about the tragedy all I knew was “some girl” was killed by an “idiot drunk driver.” I heard she was a Mel High soccer player, and the entire current girls’ team at Melbourne High School had been checked out Friday because of her death. “That’s sad,” I thought. The event was simply news, coming and going as usual, a foreign story about some poor girl and her boyfriend killed in an accident.
Later that night I was on Facebook, scrolling through cryptic statuses about drunk driving and mourning, when one bearing a childhood name caught my eye.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Rachel Price and her family. RIP.”
Rachel Price. The girl that lived down the street from me until going away to college. The girl who would greet me with a smile as I walked the dog down the street, barely strong enough to hold the leash. The girl who would pass a soccer ball back and forth with me and other kids in the neighborhood. The girl my dad saved from drowning when she fell in our pool at the age of 4. The girl whose family was always helping with school events. The girl who was known throughout the town as the soccer star. In fact, she was named the Florida Today’s 2011 Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year, was a member of the U.S. under-18 women’s team, and was attending Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on a soccer scholarship.
Although I hadn’t seen her in a few years, I couldn’t imagine that this girl who was part of my community for so long was gone.
She, 18, and her boyfriend, Jamaree Cook, 19, were on their way back from college to tell her family about a letter she had gotten inviting her to the World Cup. While passing through St. Cloud, a pickup truck pulled out in front of them, smashing into them and pushing her vehicle into a utility vehicle stopped at an intersection. Their car caught fire, and both teens were killed. The pickup truck’s driver, identified as Randall Kaley, 47, was arrested and charged for drunk driving.
While many view this event as I did at first, merely another tragedy or obituary in the newspaper, it’s an event that rocked the community she grew up in, where she touched so many people with her smile and determination to succeed. She really will be missed by all who knew her.