The HBCU community is currently mourning the loss of four Claflin University students who died in a car accident Thursday evening in South Carolina.
Melvin Lonell Jackson Jr., 21, of Chester; Darrell Renard Pendergrass, 21, of Society Hill; and Keeron Q. McElveen, 18, of Kingstree, died at the scene of the I-77 wreck, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts stated on Friday.
According to Watts, Jamarius Kel’Shawn Bruce, a 19 year-old who was also in the car was taken to Palmetto Health Richland hospital where he later died from multiple traumas. According to the reports, all four students were sports management majors at the school and another student named Gernardo Cato, remains in the hospital.
On Friday close to 900 students, staff and faculty gathered to pray for the students.
“This will be one of those defining moments for us, especially the student body,” Omega Psi Phi member and University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said at the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center. “These students were a part of a core of students serving the community. They would have been leaders in organizations, one of them being Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. They would have been involved in being involved. Being committed to giving back and serving.”
According to The T&D, Rev. Arnold Ray, the advisor for the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, stated, “The big thing is that there are some people at this age who have never experienced or seen death this close up.” Pendergrass, 21, was a Spring 16 initiate of the Gamma Nu chapter of the fraternity.
“I’ll remember his smile,” he said to The T&D. “The last time we were together, when he walked in the room, his face had the ability to light it up.”
According to South Carolina Highway Patrol reports, the student’s Ford Escape was traveling south on I-77 when the driver lost control of the sports utility vehicle. The SUV crossed the median and ran into the northbound lanes, colliding with a Toyota SUV.
“Watts said Jackson was the driver and Pendergrass was in the Ford’s front passenger seat. Both wore seatbelts, Watts said according to TheState.com. “McElveen and Bruce, who were in the rear seats and not wearing seat belts, were ejected from the vehicle, Watts said. Watts said all died from trauma.”
We ask that you keep the students’ families, friends and fraternity brothers and university in your thoughts. We also ask that you leave your condolences and memories of them in the comment section below so that their families can see how much they meant to all of us.