Teachers, students and staff at the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour are coping with the loss of one of their own this week.
Michelle Kiewitt, 17, a Seymour High School student who was in her second year of attending classes at the learning center, died Sunday from injuries she suffered in a car wreck Saturday in the small town of Laconia in Harrison County, just north of the Indiana/Kentucky border.
On Tuesday, learning center teacher Robin Cummings described Kiewitt as a sweet girl with a big heart, who was beautiful on the inside and outside.
“We all really enjoyed her company,” Cummings said. “She was kindhearted and really cared about other people.”
Cummings said that, because Kiewitt was friends with nearly everyone in the community, her death is a tragedy felt by many.
“We’re not going to be able to make sense of it,” Cummings said. “She would have had a beautiful life because she had a beautiful heart.”
The wreck happened about 10:15 p.m. Saturday in the 1700 block of State Road 337 in Harrison County, police said.
According to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, Kiewitt lost control of her vehicle, left the road and struck a tree. She was thrown from the vehicle.
Kiewitt was flown to University Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where she died about two hours later of blunt force trauma, officials said.
Investigators believe speed was a factor, along with Kiewitt being unfamiliar with the area. She was not wearing a seat belt, police said.
There were three other teens in the car — all males. The front-seat passenger was critically injured, and he and another passenger were flown to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, police said. The fourth was treated at the scene and was released to his parents, police said. Their names have not been made public.
According to officials, it did not appear that alcohol or drugs played a role in the incident, and the teens may have been camping at the Smith Campground.
Kiewitt was the daughter of Sandy (Danny) Collins and Michael (Wendy) Kiewitt.
According to her family, she was baptized at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Seymour and was an active teenager who was always on the go. She often took selfies on her phone, posted pictures on her Facebook page and ran around with friends.
She enjoyed being a manager for the Seymour High School football team, was a cheerleader and enjoyed swimming. Her favorite pastime was being outside on a four-wheeler or a go-cart.
Kiewitt had just finished a volunteer position at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour last semester and was interested in the medical field, Cummings said.
“It really impacted her because she was not aware of all the opportunities out there,” Cummings said. “It gave her insight into how many options she had.”
Kiewitt also volunteered at the learning center, where she helped out with custodial services.
“She was very much appreciated by all of us here,” Cummings said. “No one was beneath her, and she treated everyone as a friend.”
Although this is the last week of classes before the summer break, the joy usually felt by students this time of year is subdued as they try to cope with what has happened.
Cummings hopes students can find a way to work past their grief and honor Kiewitt with their accomplishments.
“This is the deepest loss that these children have ever felt,” Cummings said. “I’m hopeful that a loss such as this lets them live their life in a way that would make Michelle happy. That they can find peace and comfort in each other and live a life that would make her proud.”
Abbey Campbell, 16, of Seymour was close friends with Kiewitt and said she can’t believe Kiewitt is gone.
They met in fifth grade and had been friends ever since, Campbell said.
“She was the sweetest person you’d ever meet. She’d help anyone, even if they never asked for it,” Campbell said. “She loved her family and friends so much.”
Campbell, who is now home-schooled, said she looked up to Kiewitt and could always count on her.
“She was ambitious and had amazing plans for her future,” Campbell said. “I’ve never really met anyone like her crazy, kind and loving self. Even on my darkest days, she could put a smile on my face, and she was always my go-to girl. I’ll never forget her.”
Kiewitt’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Voss Chapel in Seymour, with burial to follow at Acme Cemetery. Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. until time of service Saturday at the funeral home.