Faulkner students dead in crash

MAPLESVILLE, AL (WSFA) - WSFA 12 News has confirmed two Faulkner University student-athletes are dead after a head-on collision with a tractor trailer in Chilton County.

Ryne K. Wilhite, 19 of New Albany, Mississippi and Teirson D. Hollis, 20 of Douglasville, Georgia were killed instantly when the 1996 Ford Explorer they were traveling in slammed into a eighteen wheeler.

Both men were sophomores on the Faulkner Eagles' football team.

"I've never been through anything like this - it hurts so much,'' Faulkner head coach Gregg Baker said. "T and Ryne were both great kids, two wonderful Christian young men. The only thing that is helping us right now is the fact that we all know exactly where they are, and that's with our God in Heaven.''

"Both of them were always smiling and joking around," Baker added. "They may no longer with us here, but T and Ryne will always be a part of this program. Always.''

By mid-day Tuesday all flags on the Faulkner campus were flying at half-staff. The football team was informed of the tragedy by Baker and his staff just after the school's academic honors convocation Tuesday morning. Simultaneously, Faulkner president Dr. Billy D. Hilyer informed the rest of the student body, faculty and administration.

"This is a very difficult day for our family,'' said Hilyer, who also addressed the football team Tuesday. "My primary mission on this campus is to be there for our students and to help provide them what they need to earn a quality Christian education. In many ways, they are like my children. And this just breaks all of our hearts. The message that it should send to everyone is just how much we need God, who we know also lost a child. And it's the blood of Jesus that we embrace today.''

Grief counselors have been made available to everyone on campus.

Wilhite and Hollis were returning home after weekend trip to Tuscaloosa to see a friend.

Funeral services have not been announced.