Family coping with loss of daughter, 9

By JAN GRIFFEY/Editor

COLUMBIANA — Michelle Carter and her family are slowly beginning to cope with the tragedy that last weekend changed their lives forever.

On Friday, Carter lost her daughter, Brynleigh Welch, 9, in an ATV accident near the intersection of Alabama 25 and Old 25 in Columbiana.

Brynleigh Welch, 9

Carter’s son, Christian Carter, 13, was injured and hospitalized as a result of the accident.

“At this point, we are a little numb,” Carter said this morning.

She said son Christian was released from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

“He is doing good. His leg will heal fine. He has a full cast on his leg, but they were able to get everything lined up,” she said.

Carter described her daughter as never having met a stranger.

“She was a very happy child. She loved everybody,” Carter said.

Welch was most fond of horses, softball and riding motorcycles.

“And she loved her family,” Carter said. “She was a very pleasant child, just a very loving child.”

Many of Welch’s fourth-grade classmates at Elvin Hill Elementary learned of her death when they arrived at school on Monday.

“Yesterday was pretty tough,” said Betsy Hillman, Elvin Hill Elementary principal. “We spent a lot of time talking about it, drawing pictures, making cards for the family and writing about memories of Brynleigh.”

Hillman and her staff had help from Shelby County Schools counselors Cindy Wiley and Scott Mohon, as well as counselors from Shelby County High School and Wilsonville Elementary School, who spent the day at the school, talking with children who needed that.

“Most of them knew about it when they came to school yesterday, but we did make sure every class knew,” Hillman said. “We just told them there was an accident, and if they wanted to talk about it, we let them talk for a little bit.”

Children were led in their discussions to focus on happy memories of time spent with Welch, who Hillman described as “just a very joyful child, always.”

She said Welch’s teacher referred to her as the “class greeter. She loved to greet people who came to her classroom.”

Hillman said Welch was very involved with softball and with school in general.

“One thing I’ve heard teachers and friends say over and over is that she was always smiling and gave a hug to everyone.”

Funeral services for Welch are Saturday at noon at Columbiana United Methodist Church by Pastor Mike Satterfield. Burial will follow in Wilsonville Community Cemetery.

Visitation is Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bolton Funeral Home in Columbiana.

Survivors, in addition to her mother, Michelle Leigh Carter, include her father, Dequarius Cortez Welch; brothers Nathan Carter and Christian Carter; grandparents Sylvia Carmichael, Jack Carmichael, Steve and Janice Brasher, Lonnie Walker, Steve Mims and Terry Carter.