The injured teen was recovering at a Birmingham hospital Tuesday.
Brittney Bonner — a 16-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School, and 19-year-old James Michael “Trey” Phillips III — a recent Oxford graduate — were killed when the pickup truck Phillips was driving left the roadway a few minutes past midnight Saturday, striking a stand of trees at the intersection of McIntosh Road and CC Road just inside Talladega County.
Steven Horton, 19, was driving in a separate pickup and received multiple injuries in the accident, his mother, Brenda Horton, said by phone Monday. The trucks being driven by Horton, a 2012 Oxford graduate, and Phillips both left the road on the same side of the roadway and struck the trees, Oxford Fire Department Chief Gary Sparks told The Star Saturday.
Brenda Horton said her son was recovering well after surgery to repair a broken hip.
“He’s facing more surgeries, but other than that he’s healing well and doing very well,” she said. Horton’s left wrist and hand, and right ankle and shin were also broken. The wrist and foot likely will require more surgery, she said.
Phillips’ grandfather, Michael Phillips, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Oxford, recalled a conversation he and his grandson had Thursday.
“The last words he said to me was ‘Pawpaw, I’ve got 30 people coming to church on Sunday.’ And brother they came. They came, and a few more,” Phillips said of the more than 80 that showed at church to pay their respects to the Phillips family.
Five of those visitors accepted Christ as their savior Sunday, Phillips said, and three more rededicated their lives. It was all because Trey invited them to church, Phillips said.
That was something his grandson did regularly, Phillips said, often stopping by the Books-A-Million bookstore in Oxford before church and loading his truck up with friends and anyone else he could convince to go along with him.
An avid deer-hunter, the younger Phillips loved to spend time in the forest around Mount Cheaha.
“He loved to go to the woods. He was planning to go to the woods at four o’clock this morning when this happened,” Phillips said.
Phillips worked at Legacy Cabinets in Oxford, where his grandfather said he had just learned he was going to be promoted.
“He was so happy all day Thursday. He was just a happy-go-lucky guy. If he had 15 cents in his pocket, he was happy,” Michael Phillips said. “He was the love of my life … we’ll see him after a while though. That’s all I know.”
Phillips and his passenger, Bonner, had stopped to help Horton get his truck started sometime after 11 p.m., his grandfather said, and after getting the truck running, was following Horton home to make sure he arrived safely when the accident occurred.
Words come hard when a young life is taken, but the parents of Brittney Bonner tried as best they could Tuesday to talk about the girl they loved.
It isn’t hard to know what 16-year-old Bonner — killed in a Saturday morning accident in Oxford — loved. Her mother, Cristal Bonner, spread out a stack of photographs across a desk Tuesday morning. In each, Bonner is smiling or making a funny face, covered in mud and standing near pickup trucks with friends.
That’s where she had been the night of the accident. Out with her crew of friends riding in the mud at a place her mother said they call “Kentuck,” a series of trails through the woods around Kentuck Road and CC Road in Oxford.
Rodney Bonner struggled at times as he talked about how much his daughter loved her friends and her Chihuahua, Little Bit, and how she dreamed of having her own truck. He was planning to buy her one in January.
“You never think about it … we were worried about what she was going to do when we died,” Bonner said.
At a candlelight vigil for Bonner Sunday night at Oxford’s Bannister Park, Bonner’s grandmother Kitty White recalled seeing all those cars and trucks. Hundreds, she said, and all their because of her granddaughter.
“I was amazed at it,” White said. “… They say not to ask why, but you still do. Why at 16?”
In a small, well-worn yellow notebook Bonner kept for school, she wrote about what she liked and about her hopes. Her parents flipped through the pages reading aloud passages they thought told Bonner’s story best.
“What’s something you do very well?” was a question posed at the top of one page. “Something I do very well is to help others. I love to help others who really need it. That’s something I really enjoy doing,” Brittney wrote in response.
She wanted to become either a teacher or a counselor, her parents said. She was a people person, they said, and wanted to find a way to help.
“What is your idea of having a fun evening?” was written atop another page.
“Going mud-riding on Kentuck with my crew,” Bonner wrote.
That’s where she loved to be. With her friends, riding in a truck and laughing and being herself, the girl’s father said.
The cause of the accident remained under investigation Tuesday, according to Trooper Charles Dysart, public information officer for the Alabama State Troopers.
Counselors have been made available at Oxford High School for any student wishing to speak with them, said Roy Bennett, student services coordinator for Oxford’s schools.
“This is one of those things where we have a student and two former students who all have families, and our thoughts and prayers are with those families. It’s just a really tough time for them,” Bennett said Monday.
Funeral services for Brittney Bonner will be on Saturday, December 15 at 11 a.m. in the chapel of Miller Funeral Home. Burial will follow in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends today from 5 until 8 p.m. at the funeral home.
Funeral services for James Michael Phillips III will be today, December 14, at 2 p.m. in the chapel of Miller Funeral Home. Burial will follow in the Hopeful Baptist Church Cemetery.