|Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo|
Emergency responders investigate the scene of a crash on Outer Loop Road between Reed and Williamson Valley roads Wednesday morning. Julianna Hersh, 23, Jeremiah Hersh, 13, and Jess Hersh, 9, were killed.
Special to the Review
Three people were killed and two were seriously injured when two cars collided head-on this past Wednesday morning on Outer Loop Road between Reed and Williamson Valley Roads, according to a sheriff's spokesman.
A passerby reported the accident, which happened sometime before 7:50 a.m., at milepost 2.5 on Outer Loop, south of Chino Valley.
One car, a 2005 Chevrolet Aveo, was occupied by four siblings: Julianna Hersh, 23; Joseph Hersh, 15; Jeremiah Hersh, 13; and Jess Hersh, 9, YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said. Julianna and Jess, a girl, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, and Jeremiah was taken to a Phoenix hospital, but died there, he said. Joseph was flown to Flagstaff Medical Center and has been released. The Hersh family is from Chino Valley.
The second car was a 2007 Subaru, Elaine Anderson, 63, of Prescott was driving. She also was flown to FMC and is in stable condition, D'Evelyn said.
Outer Loop between Reed and Williamson Valley Roads was closed until about 12:30 p.m. while authorities investigated the cause of the crash and then cleaned up the debris.
With no independent witnesses to the collision, YCSO accident reconstruction specialists are investigating and a conclusive report will not be available for several days. Investigators will not speculate on the accident's cause.
The tragedy struck the faculty, staff, and students at Mountain Oak School in Prescott especially hard, because all were part of the school's community, officials said.
"We've been watching them grow up," Anna Carnegie-Marx, school board president. "It's a pretty close-knit group here."
Julianna Hersh, 23, was the kindergarten assistant staff at Mountain Oak.
"She was an incredible musician and songwriter," Carnegie-Marx said. "She just brought joy and life to her room."
Julianna was "brilliant" with her young charges, she said. "She had a heart for knowing what they were needing and how to teach them."
Julianna was a performer who played guitar and sang outside the school, participating in the open mic nights at Chino Valley's Overflow Coffee, where she was very popular.
Jeremiah, 13, also had musical talent, School Director ElizaBeth Wildemaan said. He played the recorder and she called him "a very sweet child that all the kids liked."
He recently expanded his skills to drumming, Carnegie-Marx said. "He was so excited to play" in an African drumming class. "He had a lot of natural talent."
His drum was found among the wreckage after the collision, she noted sadly.
"Ah, sweet Jessa," Carnegie-Marx said. "We've been watching her grow." Jessa, 9, loved to dance, and loved to ride her pony, she said, choking up a bit. She had "the most gorgeous red hair, and big blue eyes.
"She was a sweet, sweet girl."
The school has been receiving assistance from a trauma intervention team from the Yavapai County Education Service Agency, Wildemaan said.
"We've watched students hugging each other, and supporting each other, and crying together," Carnegie-Marx said, adding that the trauma team members adjust their techniques to suit different age groups. "In a lot of cases, they literally sit on the floor with the kids. We're so grateful that there's been a team to come in and hold our hands and lead us through this."
This past Monday Mountain Oak School changed its annual fall Pumpkin Path event - which "Jules was always really involved with and was so looking forward to" - to be a memorial to the Hersh family. "We want to celebrate the lives of these students, but at the same time, have those moments for grieving," Carnegie-Marx said.