Three small, local communities are reeling after three young residents were among those killed in a bus crash Friday evening.

Three small, local communities are reeling after three young residents were among those killed in a bus crash Friday evening.


Returning from a scrimmage in Bethany, Okla., the North Central Texas College softball team’s bus was struck by a semi-truck on Interstate 35 near Davis, Okla. Jaiden Pelton, 20, Katelynn Woodlee, 18, and Brooke Deckard, 20, were all killed. They are all members of the NCTC team and graduates of local high schools. Wylie resident and softball player Meagan Richardson, 19, was also killed, and the 11 remaining team members were all hospitalized, though most were treated and released Friday.


"This is the most traumatic event that NCTC has had in its 90 years of history," North Central Texas College President Brent Wallace said in a news conference Saturday. On the college’s Facebook page, the NCTC softball program has asked for continued prayers as three players remain hospitalized in stable condition as of Saturday.


Around 9 p.m. Friday, a northbound semi crossed into the median of Interstate 35 and collided with the side of the southbound bus, according to a report from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.


"Right now, it’s being investigated like a homicide," Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Ronnie Hampton told The Oklahoman. "Both drivers … we will run toxicologies on them, which is standard with something like this."


NCTC softball coach Van Hedrick was driving the bus and refused treatment at the scene. The driver of the semi has been hospitalized. According to a release from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, the National Transportation Safety Board will also investigate the accident.


These young women shared a love of softball, and their high school coaches remember them for both their skill in the game and strength of character off the field.


"It’s a tragic loss to lose somebody like that, so young, who had so much potential to do a lot of great things in her life," Cody Carlisle said of Ms. Deckard. Carlisle was Ms. Deckard’s coach at Blue Ridge High School for three years, including 2010 when the Lady Tigers were the Class 1A state runner-up during Ms. Deckard’s freshman year.


Carlisle said Ms. Deckard, who earned all-state honors, was a phenomenal softball player, one of the best hitters he ever coached. But she was also a kind young woman, and mature beyond her years, he said.


"A lot of people will remember her as a great softball player, and she was," said Carlisle. "But as good a softball player as she was, she was even better as a person."


Bret Cranford coached Ms. Pelton through junior high and high school in the Sam Rayburn Independent School District. "She was a leader, and a naturally-gifted, hardworking athlete," Cranford said.


Ms. Pelton, who helped lead the Lady Rebels to back-to-back 1A state runner-up finishes in her final two seasons, was second-team all-state as a junior and named to the all-state tournament squad as a senior, was a resident of the city of Telephone. Cranford said he remembered her for her sense of humor and her occasional rebellious streak, as well as for being "an absolute pleasure to be around."


"I’ve coached for a long time, and she was just one of those players you know you are going to miss," Cranford said. "There are certain girls you count on, and you believe in them. She was one of those."


Ms. Woodlee lived in Windom and graduated from Dodd City High School. Her coach, Kevin Darwin, said she will be deeply missed.


"She was a wonderful person who came from a wonderful family," Darwin said. "She was just a joy to be around, not only as an athlete but as a person."


Darwin said Ms. Woodlee, an all-state first-team selection as a senior, had a sunny disposition, a positive attitude and a beaming, contagious smile. "She played hard and she was competitive in everything that she did. She always gave everything that she had and she did it with a great attitude," Darwin said.


"It’s just a tragedy," he continued. "I don’t know how else to put it, when you lose someone like that."


A prayer vigil is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday at NCTC’s Gainesville campus.