LEES CREEK — The two East Clinton High School students who lost their lives Saturday night in an auto accident in Fayette County were known for their recurring smiles.
Anderson G. VanNieuwenhze of Leesburg, 17, and Brandon Newman of Sabina, 18, were both East Clinton seniors at Lees Creek in Clinton County.
On Monday, high school Principal Matt Baker remarked about how often the two students had smiles on their faces and asked how your day was going.
All families with students in East Clinton High School were notified through the district’s one-call-now system that the school would be open Sunday afternoon for students to come in.
A large majority of the seniors’ Class of 2016 came, said East Clinton Local Schools Superintendent Eric Magee, and “many tears were shed.”
Some members of the victims’ families also came.
“They were supported from our students, but they were strong and provided a lot of support back to our students as well, so that was greatly appreciated,” said the superintendent.
The school opened at 1 p.m. Sunday and the gathering lasted until 4.
East Clinton school counselors and about five area ministers and youth ministers were present.
Baker had printed posters with photographs of VanNieuwenhze and Newman to provide an opportunity for classmates to write a memory or a note alongside the pictures.
At the event, Magee spoke of having a strong foundation in such times, and relying on family and community and God in these situations.
The one-vehicle crash took place on U.S. Route 62 Southwest, just north of the Fayette and Highland County line about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
The 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora was heading south on U.S. 62 when the driver, VanNieuwenhze, lost control going around a left curve, according to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.
On Monday, Stanforth said excessive speed and the driver’s inexperience are believed to be contributing factors in the crash. No alcohol was detected, he said, and both vehicle occupants were wearing their safety belts.
He said the motorists had been traveling on a lengthy straight section of roadway, and once the vehicle got in the curve the driver lost control and the vehicle went sideways, flipped and hit a utility pole during one of the flips.
The roof of the car struck the utility pole, breaking the pole in half, the sheriff said. Both occupants were pronounced dead at the scene by Fayette County Coroner Dr. Dennis Mesker.
According to the principal, Newman was on the football team and VanNieuwenhze was a wrestler.
A candlelight vigil, with donated candles, was held Monday evening at the football field.
Visitation for VanNieuwenhze and Newman will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the East Clinton High School gymnasium.
All after-school activities for Monday and Wednesday were canceled.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger. Ryan Carter with the Record-Herald contributed to this report.