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Decatur memorial honors three drunk driving victims
A monument at Decatur High School was dedicated Thursday to three students who were killed by drunk drivers.
In the school’s front lawn facing Southwest 320th Street, a charcoal-black granite stone is engraved with the names, birth dates and death dates for Derek King, Nicholas Hodgins and Emmanuel Franco.
King and Hodgins, both age 18, died one year ago in June after a drunk driver rear-ended their vehicle on Interstate 5 — just three days before the Decatur seniors’ graduation and one day before King’s 19th birthday. Franco, 21, was a 2007 Decatur graduate who died Dec. 29 after a drunk driver crashed into him at the intersection of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South.
Decatur student Chloe Turner, who graduates Saturday, led the fundraising effort for the memorial with help from the school’s Reach and Latino clubs.
“We raised $1,900 in three days,” said Turner, noting that donations came from parents, teachers, neighbors, students and previous graduates.
The monument cost about $1,400. The leftover money went toward three Japanese snowbell trees (styrax japonicus) that were planted next to the memorial, which was quickly surrounded with flowers and mementoes from visitors.
“They blossom with white flowers. They’re going to be gorgeous,” Turner said of the three trees. “I’m really excited for them to bloom.”
The deaths of King, Hodgins and Franco have made a lasting emotional impact on the Decatur High School community.
“Everyone just really came together. It has really impacted us as a whole,” Turner said. “Personally, my heart went out to their families. I felt like they deserved to be remembered.”