3 Ole Miss students dead after car plunges over interstate

Samuel Clayton Kelly (left to right), Charles Walker Kelly and Bryant Mason Wilbanks were killed Sunday morning when their vehicle plunged over Interstate 55 in Vaiden and landed upside down on Highway 35. All three victims were freshman at Ole Miss and returning to school in Oxford.

VAIDEN – Three Ole Miss freshmen are dead after their car plunged over Interstate-55 early Sunday morning, highway officials said. Samuel Clayton Kelly, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene, as were his passengers: Bryant Mason Wilbanks, 19, and Charles Walker Kelly, also 19. All three were from Madison.

Authorities said the two Kellys are possibly cousins, but could not confirm that connection.

Reportedly, a single funeral service will be held for the three victims on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison.

Trooper Tony Dunn, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said the Carroll County EOC received a 911 call about the wreck about 8:30 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 30. He said when troopers arrived on the scene, they found Samuel’s car, a 2009 Altima, upside down on U.S. Highway 35 in Vaiden.

“They were underneath the two overpass bridges,” Dunn said. “The north and the south overpass bridge.”

Dunn said Samuel was traveling northbound on I-55 when he veered to the left shoulder and down into the grassy median between the northbound and southbound lanes.

“When [the car] hit the guardrail, it looked like it went airborne a little bit and slammed down into the median,” Dunn said, “but that didn’t stop it from proceeding to the drop off and falling over.”

Dunn said there was a drop off point in the median and the vehicle fell about 50 to 100 feet and landed on U.S Highway 35 below.

“The vehicle went upside down and landed on its hood,” Dunn said. “It just crushed the hood in on them.”

All three students were pronounced dead by Carroll County Coroner Ken Strachan, who made a preliminary ruling on the cause of death.

“It’s going to be an accident,” Strachan said, “and the victims all died due to the injuries sustained due to the motor vehicle accident.”

Strachan said when he arrived on the scene, all three victims were still strapped in the vehicle, upside down, in their seatbelts.

The Madison Police Department notified the families of the deaths.

Dunn said an investigation into the accident is ongoing, but it appears that neither alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Unconfirmed sources said the three friends had driven home to Madison to surprise their families, and were on their way back to Oxford for a religious fraternity service when the accident occurred.

Ole Miss Dean of Students Sparky Reardon released a statement from the university regarding the accident.

“The University is always saddened when we lose even one student, but when we lose three freshmen who were such great young men, it is particularly devastating. All of us in the Ole Miss family are heartbroken,” Reardon said. “We offer our prayers to their families, their friends, and their fraternity brothers and we will do all in our power to provide them with comfort and support during this sad time.”

Reardon said all three were pledges of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity.

Madison Central principal Edith Mitchell told WLBT, “This is an unimaginable loss to the families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. It is a tremendous loss the Madison Central family.” Mitchell continued, “No words can adequately express our sorrow. They were the epitome of fine young men.”

Visitation for the victims is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Broadmoor Baptist Church from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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