Like a family, members of the Woodford County High School swim team gathered Tuesday to mourn the loss of teammate Maddie Jackson, head coach Adam Kring said. "We're all pretty much, basically still in shock," he said.
Friends said Jackson, a senior, was killed Monday in a three-vehicle crash on Versailles Road in Fayette County. Her identity had not been released by the Fayette County coroner as of Tuesday evening.
Kring, who had coached Jackson since she was in eighth grade, said she was a team leader and a big sister to the younger swimmers. She would and could do anything the coaches asked, he said.
On Tuesday, Kring decided to have practice because Jackson would have wanted the team to carry on.
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"We'll miss her incredibly," he said. "We'll just miss our friend. She was a part of our family."
A crisis team of counselors was dispatched to the high school Tuesday morning, Woodford district Superintendent Scott Hawkins said.
Friends created the hashtag #LiveLikeMaddie and used it extensively on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said preliminary indications were that the accident started in the inbound lanes of Versailles Road.
Police think that Jackson's car struck another vehicle and that both then crossed the median to collide head-on with a third car, Roberts said.
She emphasized that the investigation was continuing.
The crash happened shortly before 4 p.m. Monday on Versailles Road just east of Westmorland Road.
At least two cars, including Jackson's were engulfed in flames. One was flipped onto its roof.
Four people were taken to Lexington hospitals with injuries, police said.
Steve Goodrum said Jackson and his daughter Claire had been best friends for years. They swam together on the Woodford County High School team and on the Bluegrass Marlins competitive team.
On Monday afternoon, both young women were driving separately to swim practice at Willow Oak Pool on Millpond Road in Lexington, he said.
Goodrum said Claire passed the crash without realizing it involved her best friend.
Later, after Jackson did not show up at practice, the family put the pieces together when they saw an image of the car on the evening news.
Goodrum said Jackson and his daughter often got up before school and drove to Lexington to swim, then went back again after school for another practice session.
Roger Kehrt II, head coach of the Bluegrass Marlins and Jackson's coach for six years, said she had a strong work ethic that drove her to practice so hard.
But he said she was just as happy for her teammates' successes as for her own.
"She was very successful in swimming, but she carried herself with such humility," he said.
Kehrt said Jackson had just come back from a college visit to Western Kentucky University and hoped to swim competitively there.
She was interested in a career in social work.
"Social work was going to be a perfect calling for her," Kehrt said. "She was going to go out and give to others, and that's just who she was."
Kehrt said he last saw Jackson on Monday morning, when she left practice to go to school.
"The last thing I remember her saying was, 'I think it's going to be WKU. I think I'm going to go there,'" he recalled.
As she drove to practice Monday afternoon, "I'm certain that she was on cloud nine," he said. "Everything that she wanted to be was happening."
He said Jackson was the daughter of Paul and Mary Jackson.
Police closed Versailles Road until about 8:30 p.m. Monday while they investigated the crash.
It occurred next to an automatic roadside radar speed detector that warns motorists on Versailles Road of their speeds as they approach Westmorland Road.
Mike Kauppi, who lives in the Westmorland neighborhood, said Tuesday that the median in that area of Versailles Road is only a few inches higher than the road and has no curb.
"I've often thought that section of the road is dangerous because it would be so easy for cars to cross the median," he said.
Monday's accident was the second fatal multicar crash on Versailles Road this year. Two people were killed and two were injured Jan. 14, in a head-on collision near Terrace View Drive in Lexington.