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Raising Awareness

School, community mourn passing of senior classmates

Editor’s note: The story below is entirely false. It is following a mock accident arranged to expose local students to the tragic realities of drunk driving. The names used in this story are those of real students, but they were not actually affected by the events depicted in this article.

We encourage our readers to read this article and discuss it, as well as the mock accident with their children. This is the second and final part of the story, which we have decided to run surrounding the proms of Baxter and Colfax-Mingo High School.

The Baxter and Jasper County communities came together for the funerals of Brittaney Cole Davies and Alex “A.J.” Flora on Monday, April 22.

The two seniors from Baxter Community High School were killed in an automobile collision involving alcohol after the school’s Junior/Senior Prom on April 20.

The funeral, handled by Wallace Family Funeral Home and Crematory from Newton, was held in the Baxter High School where all students  in grades 7-12 were able to attend.

A powerful scene was set, with Flora’s  urn and Davies’ casket prominently displayed on the floor of the gymnasium, the same gymnasium in which they had taken part in and watched so many sporting events and school assemblies  over the years.

Their classmates looked on, many of them teary eyed, all of them quiet and somber, during the eulogy delivered by Jeanette Watters. Watters, wife of Congregational United Church of Christ pastor Rollin Watters, delivered a powerful message surrounding the lives of the two students and what she hoped the rest of the student body could take away from the tragedy.

“Do not let their loss be in vain,” Watters said. “Let them now be advocates to you against the dangers of drunk driving. Think about what happened before you think about driving while drinking.”

Reactions from the students of Baxter High School ranged from disbelief and shock to anger and grief.

Maddy Poage, a junior from Baxter, said that she was still having trouble wrapping her head around the tragedy.

“You wonder to yourself, ‘how could this happen to your community.’ You always hear about these things happening somewhere else, but not here at home,” Poage said. “It’s hard to fathom that it happened in Baxter. I hope everyone else takes it to heart and really considers their actions and their consequences in the future.”

The families of Davies and Flora were in attendance, but were too overwhelmed to speak in front  of the students. Instead Jolynda Davies, mother of Brittaney, wrote a statement:

‘We are trying to move past this unfortunate event that didn’t need to occur, due to one’s ability not to make educated decisions. We lost our eldest daughter at the young age of 18. Without the wonderful support of the community and our faith in the lord, we would be lost right now. We also ask that the young man responsible for the loss of our child be held fully accountable for his decisions.’

The young man in question is Tim Thalacker, a boy who was otherwise well-liked and respected by his peers. Thalacker, who took part in everything the School District had to offer him from FFA to athletics, is facing a slew of charges likely to leave him behind bars for a number of years.

He has been charged with operating while intoxicated, vehicular homicide, left of center (failure to maintain control), driving with an open container and underage possession of alcohol. According to the Jasper County Sherriff’s Office, Thalacker could be facing up to 25 years in prison for the vehicular homicide charge alone.

The Principal of Baxter High School, Rob Luther, released a statement to the media on behalf of the school district:

‘What is most saddening about the past week’s events is the fact that they were easily avoidable. We had good kids who made some very poor choices and now they can never go back and undo what they have done,” wrote Luther. “I am sure they regret what has happened, but now it is too late and they will have to live with the consequences. My hope is that we all learn from this and our future decisions and choices will keep our students and staff safe. Our thoughts also go out to the families of Brittaney and A.J., to whom we offer our full support through these hard times.’

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