Ala. trooper dedicates bench to ranch girls killed in 2021 I-65 crash

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 3:56 PM CDT
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TALLAPOOSA, Ala. (WTVM) - Over a year ago, nine children and one adult lost their lives in a fiery crash on Interstate 65. Eight of the children killed were in a vehicle from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.

Four victims were students at Reeltown High School, where there is now a permanent reminder of the lives lost.

This bench honors 4 of the girls who died in that crash. The principal, along with support from his hometown, came up with the idea to place this handmade bench on campus to keep their spirit alive.

A deadly car wreck took place on June 19, 2021, on I-65. A total of 17 vehicles were involved in the crash, with seven catching fire. One of those vans included eight children from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, an organization whose mission is to offer a home to needy, neglected, or abused school-age children.

The girls were on their way home from a Gulf Shores trip with their Ranch Director, who was the only one to survive in the van.

“The fact that these young ladies did not make it and the parent who had to survive through it and hearing their stories, I wanted to do something for them,” said Trooper White

Reeltown High School Principal Cliff Maddox said four out of the eight girls, Dana, Haley, Mackenzie and Tia, all attended Reeltown High school.

Maddox said after the crash, everyone in his hometown community of High Land Home wanted to raise money to create a remembrance bench in honor of the four girls.

“My childhood friends were teachers at Highland homes school and in the community, and they reached out to me right after it happened with prayers and concerns and later on wanted to do something,” he said.

Maddox said his childhood friend, Stephanie Beverly helped design the bench. However, Beverly said a year passed, and they couldn’t find anyone to help make the blueprint come to life.

“Quite frankly, it was hard finding anybody to build that particular bench. Later on, Gered came along,” she said.

Alabama Senior Trooper Gered White said he received a phone call from his son’s teacher asking if he would be up for the challenge.

“I’ve never built anything to that depth. I wanted to build it because it had a meaning behind it. It is something my kids can look at when their kids are born or down the road. My dad did this,” White said.

While he says it took him about a week to build the bench, he always wanted to give back to the Tallapoosa Sheriff’s Ranch.

On August 9, the Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranch is hosting a memorial charity golf tournament to remember the eight children from the ranch who died in the car crash. If you would like to donate, click here.

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