Moore High School Vigil and Memorial

Flowers and stuffed animals are placed at the spot where two Moore High students were killed and four others were injured after being hit by a car. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

When the word hero comes up, it’s common to think of super-powered comic book characters wearing capes or masks.

But in the real world, heroes don’t appear that way. On Monday, they came in the form of Moore high school students.

On Monday afternoon, Moore track students Rachel Freeman, Yuridia Martinez, Kolby Crum, Ashton Baza, Shiloh Hutchinson and Joseph White were running on a sidewalk near the high school when 57-year-old Max Leroy Townsend struck them with his truck. Freeman died at the scene and the other five students were rushed to the hospital. Martinez died from her injuries on Tuesday morning.

As of Thursday, Baza and Hutchinson have been released from the hospital. Joseph White was upgraded to good condition on Thursday, while Crum remains in critical condition.

Moore police arrested Townsend shortly after the incident, and first responders quickly arrived to attend to the victims before rushing them to the hospital.

However, several Moore students at the scene performed several heroic acts before law enforcement and first responders arrived, according to police and school officials.

Immediately after Townsend crashed into the six students, several students called 911 to ask police to send ambulances to the scene. Other nearby students began administering first aid and CPR to the victims, which potentially helped save lives before help could arrive at the scene.

“There were students nearby that were able to provide comfort, first aid and encouragement. Their actions were heroic,” Moore high school principal Mike Coyle told attendees during Tuesday night’s vigil at the school. “As a student body and a school community, you are never more exceptional then in those moments and times such as today when you support one another and provide assurance to each other.”

According to Moore Police officials, two students who were nearby when the crash occurred began pursuing the driver on foot. They found Townsend sitting outside near his vehicle about five blocks from the scene.

After the students located Townsend, they saw the keys to his vehicle on the ground near where he was sitting. The students then approached Townsend and took his keys to keep Townsend from potentially leaving the scene.

Other students and nearby witnesses helped point police toward Townsend’s location and he was arrested shortly after.

“These students were in a unique set of circumstances and did what they thought they needed to do,” Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said. “We’re grateful for the actions of students, coaches and other staff members for their actions at the scene.”

The victims also displayed courageous acts during the tragedy.

Before crashing into the victims, Townsend’s truck ran into a vehicle parked on the street near the runners. One student told the Transcript she was running with the group of runners who were hit, and Hutchinson pushed her and another student out of the path of the vehicle. The truck crashed into Hutchinson, who was thrown into a nearby pond. The two students who Hutchinson pushed out of the path of the vehicle then went into the water and retrieved her from the pond to give first responders a chance to administer first aid.

Crum, who has been in critical condition since Monday, told students attempting to administer CPR that he was OK and that they should focus on the other victims, according to Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines.

Dustin Horstkoetter, director of safety and security with Moore Public Schools, said that Monday was just one example of the amazing students in the district.

“There was no hesitation. [These students] saw their friends get hurt and they went into action,” Horstkoetter said. “In this community, we have each other’s back. It’s incredible and it’s to be expected. I’d like to say we were surprised and this was shocking, but that’s what we do. That’s what these kids do. That’s who they are and it defines who they are.”

In a town that has faced multiple tragedies, including destructive tornadoes and other young deaths, residents have learned to lean on each other. Romines said Monday’s tragedy is another reminder of the closeness of the community and the outstanding character of the students in the district.

“We love our first responders and they do so much for our community, and their response was critical to saving lives,” Romines said. “But these students had the first chance to help at the scene and they did what they needed to do. It speaks to the amazing kids that we have here. It’s who they are.

“It was a true testament to the students at Moore High School. Without hesitation or second thought, our students were there with their friends and began life saving tactics. Their actions were nothing short of heroic. I’m very grateful to the students and staff at Moore High School.”

For anyone interested in helping the victims and their families, the Moore Alumni Association created a student relief fund online with all donations going directly to the victims. 

There are also GoFundMe pages set up for the families of Joseph White and Yuridia Martinez.

Jesse Crittenden

366-3540

Follow me @jcrtt31

jcrittenden@normantranscript.com

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