More than 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil Friday night on the Gardiner Area High School soccer field to honor the 16-year-old student who died from injuries sustained in a crash Thursday morning, according to an Augusta newspaper.
Tabytha Hembree of Pittston, who was played goalie on the Gardiner girls soccer team, was remembered as “talented, athletic, smart and strong,” the Kennebec Journal reported.
“Tonight is certainly a symbol of the strength this community has for each other,” Principal Chad Kempton told the crowd, the paper said. “She was such a well-rounded, positive young lady, and she was the whole package.”
Players and their coach, Jolaine Galibois-Barss, pledged to devote this season’s play to their lost teammate.
“There was not one person on this team that Taby didn’t have an impact on,” one player said while crying, the paper reported. “She was one of the strongest girls I’ve ever met and she had the most vibrant personality.”
Tabytha was taking her brother, Alex, 12, to school in Gardiner when the car she was driving hit a dump truck. The accident occurred at the intersection of Route 27 and Old Cedar Grove Road.
Both were taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta with serious injuries, on what should have been their first day back from summer vacation. Alex is expected to make a full recovery.
Friday was a very emotional day for schools in the Gardiner area as students learned of the girl’s death, Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 11, told the Kennebec Journal.
“It brings up a lot of emotions for many of us from experiences we’ve all had in our lives,” she reportedly said. “It was emotional for everyone, but I was so impressed by the degree of support that students had and gave to each other.”
The high school will be open until 2 p.m. Saturday, with counselors and staff members available to help students cope with their classmate’s death, the superintendent said.
The soccer team is holding a car wash to raise money for Hembree’s family from until 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gardiner Fire Station, the paper said.
A GoFundMe page set up to help financially support Hembree’s family had collected more than $13,000 in donations by Friday afternoon.