A Lawrence High School senior who died in a traffic accident Monday while visiting relatives in Texas was following her mother and stepfather. They had allowed her to drive her own car on the trip.
For the first time in her 17 years, Carrie Ellis was tasting the freedom of driving separately from her parents on a family vacation.
But her journey of independence ended tragically on Monday when the Lawrence High School senior's car collided with an oncoming vehicle on a north Texas highway, killing Carrie and critically injuring a brother and stepbrother who were riding with her.
Bob Fairchild, Carrie's stepfather, said the accident occurred while Carrie was following the family car on the way back from San Angelo, Tex., where the family had gone for a Thanksgiving visit with relatives.
Authorities said that about 9:20 a.m. Monday, Carrie's car drifted across the center line of U.S. Highway 82 and struck a Texas Highway Department truck head-on.
Carrie was pronounced dead at the accident scene, about 30 miles southwest of Wichita Falls, Tex.
Carrie's stepbrother, Andrew Fairchild, an LHS sophomore, and a brother, Chad Ellis, a ninth-grader at South Junior High School, were taken by helicopter to Shannon Medical Center, San Angelo, Tex.
Fairchild, Douglas County counselor, said today that doctors performed six hours of emergency surgery Tuesday night on Andrew, who suffered a severely fractured and disclocated shoulder and jaw, a concussion and bruised kidneys.
Surgery was scheduled for today for Chad, who suffered fractures to the legs, pelvis, wrist and fingers as well as a lacerated kidney and spleen.
Fairchild said doctors have told the family "it appears they're going to be OK."
K.C. Glyckherr, Carrie's best friend, said Carrie told her that she and Andrew had made arrangements to trade places behind the wheel periodically to avoid fatigue on the trip. Texas authorities said Carrie may have fallen asleep; the family had driven about 200 miles that day.
Carrie, Glyckherr said, wanted the traveling arrangement to run smoothly "because she was so happy that she didn't have to drive with her parents."
Misty Deaton, a neighbor and friend of Carrie's, said Carrie worked at the Dillon grocery store at 1015 W. 23rd, was interested in drama and photography and planned to study veterinary science in college.
The friends described Carrie as shy but very giving toward her friends. Last month, Misty said, Carrie brought her a milkshake after Misty had her wisdom teeth pulled. She said Carrie also visited her each of the next two days.
"She was just one of those persons you just automatically like," Misty said. "She was so sweet and so kind."
Memorial services for Carrie Elizabeth Ellis are pending and will be announced by Warren-McElwain Mortuary after the family returns from Texas. Cremation is planned.
She was born Aug. 8, 1976, in Springfield, Mo., the daughter of Robert Steven Ellis and Martha Ellis Fairchild.
Carrie had been a Lawrence resident since March, moving here from Knoxville, Tenn. At Lawrence High School, she was a member of the Key Club, a community service organization.
Survivors include her mother and stepfather, Marty and Robert Fairchild, Lawrence; her father and stepmother, Steve and Carol Ellis, Knoxville; two brothers, Chad and Jared, Lawrence; three stepbrothers, Chris, Matt and Andrew Fairchild, Lawrence; and her grandparents, James K. and Wim Terry, Lawrence, and Jack and Inez Ellis, Springfield.
The family suggests memorials to the Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville. Contributions may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.