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Howard-Ellis students mourn classmates killed in crash

Published 5:47pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Niles Community Schools lost two of its own this week when sisters Juliana Brown, 9, and Sophia True, 6, died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash Tuesday in Howard Township.

Brown was in the third grade at Howard Elementary, while Sophia was in the first grade at Ellis Elementary. The schools, which house students grades kindergarten through five, are located within 1,500 feet of one another on Niles’ northeast side.

Despite the physical separation, Principal Michelle Asmus said the two schools really are one family — a family that is beginning to pick up the pieces after Tuesday’s tragedy.

“We have a building of over 700 kids, but they are all our kids,” Asmus said. “Even those of us that didn’t know them well, you still feel that pain. Our hearts and prayers go out to their family.”

Asmus had known Juliana since kindergarten. She said she’d remember her as a beautiful, kind girl who befriended everyone and took good care of her little sisters.

“She really lit up a room,” Asmus said, “and she was always dressed to the nines. Her earrings always matched her dress.”

Howard-Ellis students received grief counseling Wednesday from the district’s crisis response team, which consists of several counselors, behavioral specialists and social workers.

Students were encouraged to express their feelings towards Brown and True by coloring pictures and writing letters that will eventually be given to the sisters’ family.

One student colored a picture of a boy crying with blue tears streaming down his cheeks.

Another student wrote in crayon, “Dear Sophie’s mom. I am sorry she had to go.”

Students also listed the things they would remember about Brown and True. For Brown students wrote, “she had attitude,” “loved her drawing,” “great friend,” “sweet” and “I love her.”

True was described as a “great friend” and “sweet” with a “strong heart.”

Supt. Richard Weigel said the crisis team would remain at Howard-Ellis the rest of the week, if needed.

“We are surrounding them with love — the students and teachers,” Weigel said. “This is a very difficult day for our Howard-Ellis family and also for our Niles Community Schools family. We care so deeply about our children, and it is very hurtful for all of us.”

Another sister, Penelope True, 4, was also involved in the accident, which occurred at the intersection of Leet and M-60 at 3:40 p.m., shortly after school was dismissed.

Penelope remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon at South Bend Memorial Hospital. Penelope was scheduled to take part in her first day of school today at Northside in Niles.

All three sisters were traveling in a sedan driven by babysitter Sarah Michael, 19, of Niles. Michael sustained serious injuries, but was treated and released Tuesday evening from South Bend Memorial.

Witnesses told police Michael’s sedan was traveling south on Leet Road, near Howard-Ellis, and failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Leet and M-60. The sedan was hit by a pickup heading east on M-60.

The driver of the pickup, Robert Camfield, 60, of Lawton, was treated and released at the scene.

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  • http://hbigbach@hotmail.com Heather B

    My heart aches for everyone involved in this terrible accident. just want to say I think Niles school is doing a great job in helping these babies cope witht he unthinkable.

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