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Family, teachers mourn teen wreck victim

By Jason A. Smith and Johnny Jackson

jsmith@henryherald.com

A funeral service is scheduled in McDonough today for a local teenager, who, along with his cousin, died in a wreck over the weekend.

Jacob Adreil Wesley Simmons, 16, of Hampton, died Friday. Henry County police said Simmons was driving his pickup truck on Floyd Road in Hampton, near East King Road, when he lost control of his vehicle and overcorrected, just before the truck overturned.

Simmons and his 14-year-old cousin, Tristan Keown, of Cleveland, Ga., died in the accident. The remaining passenger, Keown's 15-year-old cousin, also from Cleveland, survived the wreck.

Funeral services for Simmons will be held today, at 4 p.m., in the chapel of Haisten Funeral Home. The family will receive friends at the funeral home, one hour prior to the service.

Simmons' stepfather, Wesley Keown, said Simmons, and his cousins, left Friday for a nearby Publix store, to buy ingredients for barbecue sauce. Keown said the trio was gone only 25 minutes, when he heard sirens near his home, and the phone rang.

Simmons' stepfather said when he learned about the wreck, he immediately went to the crash site. "They wouldn't let us close to the truck," the stepfather said. "It was upside-down."

The stepfather said the wreck has left a void in his family. "A big part of our life is gone," Wesley Keown said. "We couldn't ask for a better kid."

Simmons' aunt, Jenny Duncan, sobbed as she recalled memories of her nephew. She described Simmons as a "loving, caring person" whose life was marked by generosity to others. "There's not a thing that he wouldn't do for anybody," Duncan said. "Everybody loved him. There was not anybody that spoke to him, that didn't walk away a friend. He smiled all the time. He was somebody you just wanted to take in your arms and cuddle. All he ever wanted to do was to make people proud of him."

Simmons, a sophomore at Luella High School, was born in Fulton County. He played baseball for the Luella Lions, participated in all sports, along with hunting, fishing, and video games, and enjoyed working on cars.

Counselors and social workers were available Monday to talk with students and faculty at Luella High School, said Connie Rutherford, community development coordinator for Henry County Schools.

Those who knew Simmons were visibly affected by his death, according to Luella Principal George Eckerle. "It is a much more somber atmosphere than what is usually here at the end of the school year," Eckerle said. The principal said several students gathered around Simmons' parking space Monday, and drew out in chalk, pastel remembrances of their classmate. Posters, too, are hung at certain spots in the school with words from students.

Students and faculty have dealt with a hefty share of tragedy over the school's seven-year history.

"We have had two other students that have been killed in automobile accidents," Eckerle said. "From our perspective as staff, it's always difficult to lose a student. Kids at that age shouldn't have to be buried."

Eckerle said he hopes the tragedies will help make those who make up the 2,100 student body of his school more aware and cautious of their surroundings on the road.

Simmons also played baseball for half a season last year, on Luella's ninth-grade baseball team. "He was really just hurt with an injured elbow, even before the season began, and could not continue," said Jody Barfield, Simmons' ninth-grade baseball coach, who is also a human anatomy and physiology teacher at Luella. "He was the kind of kid who is easy to coach -- great attitude, coachable, and eager to improve," Barfield continued. "He was a great kid with a great heart."

For more information about the funeral, or to send condolences, visit haistenfunerals.com, or call (770) 914-8833.