Students, teachers and staff at Lexington's Deep Springs Elementary School struggled Monday to cope with the tragic death of Destiny Marie Haney.
Destiny, 8, a third-grader at Deep Springs, died Saturday in the crash of an all-terrain vehicle during a family birthday celebration in Scott County. She was the daughter of Michael Haney and Rebecca Adams.
Scott County Coroner John Goble said the vehicle was being operated on a public roadway, and neither Destiny nor her 13-year-old cousin driving the ATV wore a crash helmet.
State law generally bans ATVs from public roads, and it prohibits people younger than 16 from operating ATVs with engines larger than 90-cubic centimeters. Children younger than 16 must wear helmets when driving or riding on an ATV, state law says.
There were 17 fatal ATV wrecks in Kentucky in 2009, and at least eight people have died in ATV crashes in the state this year, according to figures compiled by Kentucky State Police.
Destiny had attended Deep Springs since kindergarten, and three of her half-siblings and three of her cousins attend Deep Springs. Her death affected many of the roughly 530 students at the school.
Fayette County Public Schools sent a team of crisis counselors to Deep Springs on Monday. Some students drew and colored condolence cards to send to Destiny's family.
"Destiny was a very gifted student," said Principal Adam Kirk. "She loved to read, she loved school. She was always a helper to her peers; she was a helper to our staff and teachers. She always had a great smile on her face."
According to reports from the Scott County Sheriff's Department, Destiny and her cousin were on an ATV on Glenn Creek Drive, just outside the Georgetown city limits, about 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Destiny apparently lost her balance and grabbed for the steering wheel to catch herself, Kirk said. The ATV went out of control and overturned, throwing both girls out and rolling over on Destiny, Goble said.
Destiny was rushed to Georgetown Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead of blunt-force trauma to the head about 5 p.m. Saturday. The ATV driver was not seriously hurt.
"It's just terrible," Kirk said Monday.
Destiny's death was particularly traumatic for her third-grade teacher, Ashley Strong, who also had taught Destiny in first grade. Kirk said Destiny had been thrilled about the start of the school year because she would be back in class with Strong.
Strong was at school Monday, but Kirk said "she has been hit hard" by Destiny's death.
Destiny's mother, Rebecca Adams, went to Deep Springs on Monday and visited her daughter's classroom.
The cousin who was driving the ATV also is a Fayette County student. The district was making counseling services available for her.
According to Goble, the two children were riding in a Kawasaki Mule, a small four-wheel, off-road machine in which driver and passenger sit side by side, rather than astride the vehicle as in a typical ATV. Such machines usually are called UTVs or utility task vehicles, and sometimes are referred to as "side by sides." One Web site describes them as a cross between an ATV and a pickup. They are intended for off-road work — some models can tow more than 1,000 pounds — but also can be used for recreation.
"It's not your typical little four-wheeler," Goble said. "They're kind of a faster version of a golf cart. It's a golf-cart style, but with big knobby tires. It has a steering wheel instead of handlebars, and a little bed in the back."
Kirk, the Deep Springs principal, said teachers at the school had contacted all kindergarten through third-grade families Sunday and notified them of Destiny's death. He said that was to ensure that no student would learn of her death at school Monday.
"We wanted to give families plenty of time to talk about the ramifications, what it means when you lose a family member," Kirk said.
Deep Springs teachers met early Monday with crisis counselors, who advised them how best to provide support for students.
Some counselors went to Destiny's classroom Monday and others gathered in the school library, ready to talk with any students who wanted help, Kirk said.
Destiny's family has asked that memorial donations be made to Deep Springs. To make a donation, call the school at (859) 381-3069, Kirk said.
The school also is considering creating an award in Destiny's honor that would be given annually to an outstanding Deep Springs student.
"That's the least we could do," Kirk said.