• 82°

Automobile accident claims life of CHHS student

Three Charles Henderson High School students, who were spearheading the organization of a fellowship of Christians on campus, were involved in an accident Sunday night in which the group leader lost his life.

Justin Mills, 18, a junior at CHHS, died at Troy Regional Medical Center after being thrown from the bed of a pickup truck that hit an embankment on Needmore Road around 7:30 p.m.

Another passenger, Hannah Childs, a sophomore at CHHS, also was thrown from the truck and, at press time, remained in ICU at Troy Regional Medical Center.

The truck was driven by Michael Brinson, a junior at CHHS. Brinson was not seriously injured in the accident.

Laura Cortes, Hannah’s mother, said the three friends had attended church at Banks Baptist Church and were on their way to mud ride when the accident occurred on Country Road 7752.

“Hannah’s going to be OK physically, but it’s the emotional stress that is causing her so much pain,” Cortes said.

Dr. Linda Felton-Smith said she received a call about the accident Sunday night and went to the hospital where students and parents had gathered.

“Hannah was in a lot of pain, but it was the loss of Justin that she kept focusing on,” Felton-Smith said. “The students there were in shock. They just couldn’t believe it. This is a difficult time for all of us. To lose a student is very hard. Justin was well liked and involved in school activities. He was so excited about playing with the marching band on Friday nights. He was a good student and a fine young man.”

Felton-Smith said for the students at CHHS Monday, Justin’s empty desk was symbolic of the emptiness in their hearts.

“We are providing support to the students as they grieve and we are praying for Justin’s family that they will be strengthened in their loss,” she said.

Dr. Kathy Murphy, CHHS principal, said the students seemed to be searching for a visible way to express their grief.

“A student came to me and asked permission for the students to wear red thread ribbons around their wrists in memory of Justin,” Murphy said. “She said the thread ribbons were short for Justin’s short life but strong because of the inner strength that he had and red because he was on fire for God.”

Murphy said Justin, Hannah and Michael came into her office last week to talk with her about starting a Christian fellowship group at the school.

“The group was to be called FOCOL, Followers Of Christ Our Lord,” Murphy said. “They were very excited about starting a student Bible study group, about a fellowship of Christians on campus. Being new this year, I count it a blessing that I had an opportunity to meet Justin and to know the kind of person he was.”

Murphy said she has had to turn attention to helping Justin’s classmates and schoolmates deal with his loss.

“Our two counselors at Charles Henderson have been available to our students as well as a couple of counselors at East Central Mental Health and the counselor from Troy Elementary School,” Murphy said. “We went through Justin’s schedule and went to all of his classes because those were the students who had the most recent connection with him. We had a counselor spend the better part of the day in the band room because all three of the students were involved with the band. We made individual counseling available for those who wanted it.”

Murphy said the large group classroom counseling provided opportunities for students to share their memories of Justin.

“Several of the students shared funny experiences with Justin,” Murphy said. “We laughed and we cried.”

Murphy said she had talked with Justin’s parents, Michael and Donna Mills, and his mom asked her to express appreciation for all the prayers and thoughts for her family.

“She also asked everyone to remember Michael and Hannah in their prayers,” Murphy said.

Visitation has been tentatively set for 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Green Hills with funeral services at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The accident is still under investigation by the Alabama State Troopers.