County shares in El Reno loss

jesse karson

By Mustang News/El Reno Tribune Staff

Two El Reno teens have died and four others were injured in a two-vehicle accident that happened early Sunday, March 2.

El Reno High School sophomore Jesse Gorbet, 16, died from his injuries after being taken to OU Medical Center following the collision. Fifteen-year-old Karson Baker died at OU Medical Center early Wednesday, El Reno School Superintendent Craig McVay said. Two of their fellow EHS schoolmates –Connor Ryan and Taylor Maine – remained hospitalized Monday, while Abby Schwarz and Josh Castrop were taken to Mercy El Reno Hospital, treated and released.

As of Wednesday, Ryan was listed in good, and Maine in fair, condition, OU Medical Center officials said.

The collision occurred at 12:15 a.m. at the intersection of Manning and Britton roads, Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said. Gorbet was driving a silver Chevy pickup truck and traveling southbound on Manning Road with his five passengers. The vehicle collided with a red Chevy pickup truck, driven by 20-year-old Ty Hood of El Reno. Hood, who was driving westbound on Britton Road, was also taken to Mercy El Reno and released. He was alone in his vehicle, the undersheriff said.

Both trucks were traveling too fast for the weather conditions, West said.

A “Pray for Karson Baker” page was set up on Facebook, which allowed family members of all of the injured teens to provide updates. A huge outpouring of concern and support on that page and other social media sites started up shortly after word of the crash spread through El Reno.

The community has rallied around the families hit by the tragedy.  Sunday evening, a prayer vigil was held at First Christian Church. Tara Dew, youth director at First Christian, has set up a fund for Karson Baker at El Reno’s Bank of Commerce. Deposits should be made to “Tara Dew for Benefit of Karson Baker” and can be taken to the bank, located at 220 S. Bickford Ave.

A memorial fund has also been established for Jesse Gorbet at the Rock Island Credit Union.

“This is a small community and we love our kids,” McVay said. “El Reno Public Schools extends loving thoughts and prayers to all of our students and their families.

“Please know we value each and every one in our school, and as such, are focusing on providing support for each other,” he said.

McVay said the community has been hit hard by this tragedy and he and his staff will do everything they can to help the community heal.

“Counselors are available for our kids right now,” he said. “Something like this affects everyone.

“Our administration and staff are tuned into the needs of our kids and we will be available now and for as long as necessary,” the superintendent said.

Others in the community who are reaching out to the families, McVay said.

“The El Reno Ministerial Alliance, El Reno First Baptist Church and The First Christian Church have held or are holding events for the kids to help them heal through this tragedy,” he said.

The accident came at a difficult time for El Reno schools. McVay said he was on his way to a funeral for a spouse of an El Reno teacher who lost her husband on Friday. Also, another EHS student, Kali Daly, was involved in what McVay said was a “horrific accident” Friday evening.

The superintendent said Daly is also being treated at OU Medical. He said the senior was new to EHS this semester. McVay said he and Matt Goucher, assistant superintendent, plan to visit her later Wednesday.

“We had been walking by her room at OU trauma and didn’t even know it,” McVay said.

In even more tragedy for the school, Susan Veenker, a longtime EHS foreign language teacher, died Tuesday. Veenker had been injured in a traffic accident in late January.

Students had rallied around her, raising funds to help with medical expenses.

Funeral services for Gorbet will be at 3 p.m. Friday at Jenks Simmons Field House. A memorial fund has been established in his name at the Rock Island Credit Union in El Reno. Services for Baker and Veenker are pending.