They haven’t been forgotten.
That was the message St. James Middle School assistant principal Jeff Nuzum wanted to achieve from a memorial service held Wednesday at the school for the girls who died in the Bay Road crash days before Christmas.
Kai-Lei Nichole Schumal, 14; Hailey Parsons, 15; and Naomi ‘Yamila’ Alcoser Silva, 15, were killed Dec. 22 after their vehicle ran off the left side of Bay Road around 3:15 a.m.
Schumal attended St. James Middle School; Parsons attended St. James High School; and Silva attended Socastee High School.
“We started planning (the service) in January but we wanted to take our time,” Nuzum said. “We wanted the weather to be good and we wanted it to be springtime so the parents knew we didn’t forget about them.”
Members of the middle school orchestra and choir, as well as many of the girl’s teachers participated in the service.
“That is the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with as a teacher,” said teacher David Williams, who taught Schumal and Parsons.
“Both of these girls in particular changed me,” Williams said. “Both of these girls taught me to laugh with these kids, cherish everyday and let them know that we love them.”
Markers have been placed outside of the middle school to help keep the girls’ memories alive, giving students a place to mourn their classmates.
“The markers, I wanted to have something that was permanent, something that was respectful,” Nuzum said. “We wanted them somewhere where anyone who wanted to visit could have easy access. Just a really pretty and quiet area.”
Many friends of the girls spoke highly of the girls and their sense of humor.
“I kind of wish it never would have happened,” said Valerie Oliphant, friend of Schumal. “It’s hard to believe that one day she’s walking down the hallway and the next day she’s not.”
A toxicology report released in April by the State Law Enforcement Division revealed that Parsons was not under the influence of alcohol when the truck she was driving careened off of the roadway, struck a ditch and then two trees before overturning.
A S.C. Highway Patrol traffic collision report released in January noted the driver was “driving too fast for conditions.”
A fourth person was riding along and briefly drove the truck minutes before the deadly crash, according to a report released by the S.C. Highway Patrol Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team.
MAIT findings, made available to The Sun News through a Freedom of Information request, showed the teenage girls killed in the crash were traveling at an estimated speed of 80 mph.