Wreck victims: ‘Always together’ until the end

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2008

SUNBEAM—A violent collision with a tree on the side of Sunbeam Road Thursday night claimed the lives of two Southampton High School graduates whom school officials described as longtime best friends.

Kyle Jones, 18, of Boykins, and William Edward &uot;Billy&uot; Drake Jr., 19, of Franklin, died at the scene of the 10:30 p.m. accident, according to Virginia State Police Trooper S.W. Johnson.

Johnson said Jones was driving his mother’s four-door 2002 Volkswagen Jetta on Sunbeam Road when he apparently lost control of the car after rounding a curve. He then ran off the left side of the road and struck a tree, impacting on the passenger side, between the front and rear doors.

&uot;The car was horrifically damaged,&uot; Johnson said.

In fact, the vehicle hit the tree with such force that it split in half.

Speed was likely a factor in the accident, the trooper said, though investigators are still trying to determine just how fast the vehicle was traveling at the time of the wreck. There was no evidence that alcohol was involved, he said.

Neither man appeared to have been wearing a seat belt, as both were ejected from the vehicle.

On Friday, somber teachers and administrators at Southampton High School described the men as nearly inseparable during their time at the school.

&uot;They were both fine young men,&uot; Principal Allene Atkinson said. &uot;They were always together, tight friends.&uot;

As SHS students, the pair shared an interest in all things Japanese, Joyce Edwards wrote in an e-mail Friday afternoon. Edwards is the mentor for the school’s Electronic Classroom, where Jones and Drake took three years of Japanese classes by satellite.

&uot;They loved everything Japanese—the food, martial arts, anime, and studying the language,&uot; she wrote. &uot;Both boys were upset last year when Japanese IV was canceled, but still came by often to see me and joke about going back and taking Japanese III over again.&uot;

&uot;Kyle and Billy were great friends,&uot; she added. &uot;They were disappointed when they were in different blocks on their last semester of Japanese III, but they still studied for the tests together and kept each other motivated when things got harder in Japanese III.&uot;

Edwards wrote that Drake &uot;loved to read&uot; and had written several variations of stories in the Harry Potter series, posting them online at various Web sites.

Larry Rose, who coaches the SHS tennis team, remembered Jones as a player with &uot;an awful lot of potential.&uot; Jones played on the team for his first two years of high school, but he left it behind as other pursuits gained his interest, Rose said Friday.

&uot;He was an extremely respectful young man,&uot; Rose said. &uot;He was a yes-sir, no-sir type kid. He got along with everybody.

&uot;Kyle was one of our better kids. He was a kid that you’re glad to say something good about.&uot;