Spain Park graduate dies in wreck

Published 10:43 am Friday, September 26, 2008

A 2008 Spain Park High School graduate and Auburn University freshman died Wednesday night in a car crash in Auburn.

Andrew Jackson Thurmond IV, 18, was a passenger in a 1998 Corvette driven by Scott Leighton of Illinois, a fellow freshman.

The Corvette left the roadway and, upon trying to get it back on the road, Leighton lost control. The car veered across the dividing line, hit a Hyundai car head-on and then spun into a Volvo, said Lee County Coroner Bill Harris.

Thurmond, who was wearing a seat belt, sustained massive head injuries and died instantly, Harris said.

The wreck occurred at 10:15 p.m. in the 3110 block of Alabama Highway 14.

Leighton, along with the three people in the Volvo, was transported by ambulance to the East Alabama Medical Center. The driver of the Hyundai was airlifted to the Columbus (Ga.) Medical Center.

Alcohol is suspected to be a factor in the accident, Harris said.

Thurmond was a three-year member of the Spain Park varsity soccer team. As a senior, he was third on the team in scoring with 10 goals, as he helped lead the Jaguars to an area title and state semifinal appearance in the spring.

Spain Park boys’ soccer head coach Joe Carter found out about Thurmond’s death when he received a call from Spanish teacher Howard Furnas at 7:15 a.m. Thursday as he was pulling into the parking lot at Spain Park.

Carter said Thurmond’s mother was not notified of the accident until 2 a.m. Thursday. At that point, she called Furnas, who taught her son AP Spanish, and asked him to tell the faculty and staff at Spain Park.

“You’re never prepared for anything like this, obviously,” Carter said. “When he gave me the news, I was taken aback at first, and then all of a sudden you get a flood of images and conversations.”

Carter said the news spread quickly throughout the student body as students called and text messaged each other upon finding out.

Thursday morning, the boys and girls soccer teams were gathered.

“They were obviously very upset,” Carter said of both teams. “Drew was always one of the more popular kids and was very much liked, not only by athletes, but everyone else in the school.”

Late Thursday, Carolyn Curry, president of the soccer booster club, called Carter wanting to do something special to honor Thurmond’s memory.

The school agreed to leave the gates to the soccer field open through Friday night. A memorial service was held Friday morning with soccer players at the field. Over 100 students attended.

“It was what they needed,” Carter said.

Todd Parker, an ordained minister and teacher at Spain Park, led the service. Tables sat at midfield with poster boards for students to sign, balloons and flowers.

Thurmond’s No. 4 jersey was brought out for the players to sign and be given to his mother. Players signed a soccer ball to be given to his father.

“It was a good way to try to catch a breath,” Carter said. “With so many players coming into town today we’re going to leave that out there for today.”

The visitation for Thurmond will be held Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church. The funeral will be held at Asbury Sept. 28 at 2 p.m.