Teen who died in double fatality was 'spirit leader,' seen as role model at William Blount
From Staff Reports
Amelia Dior Keown was known as a wonderful person among her peers and co-workers.
“She was a great, great kid,” said William Blount High School Principal Rob Clark.
“She was very polite and was very good with the customers,” said Marlene Richardson, manager of Rack Room Shoes at Foothills Mall in Maryville, where Keown had worked for 2½ months. “She was just a wonderful girl.”
Keown, a 16-year-old junior at William Blount High School, was killed Tuesday afternoon in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 411 South, just north of Springview Road. A Tennessee Highway Patrol report identified her as Amelia Keown Garton, but her parents said her preferred last name was Keown.
The driver of the other vehicle, who was airlifted by Lifestar to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, was identified as John C. Perkins, 44, of Maryville, according to a UT spokesperson. Perkins died early Wednesday morning.
Perkins was driving a 1999 two-door convertible Sebring Chrysler in the left lane of northbound U.S. 411 South at 3:44 p.m. Tuesday, according to a report from Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper John Pedigo. Keown was driving southbound in a 1999 four-door sedan Ford Taurus.
Perkins’ vehicle crossed the center turn lane and traveled into the left lane of southbound traffic, striking Keown’s vehicle head-on and killing the 16-year-old instantly.
“(Trooper Pedigo) had clocked the vehicle speeding going 73 in a 55-mph zone,” THP Capt. Cheryl Sanders told The Daily Times Wednesday. “Trooper Pedigo never got in pursuit of the vehicle — he was able to turn around and (Perkins’) vehicle crested the hill. He went out of sight and when Trooper Pedigo crested the hill, the crash had occurred already.”
Dance team member
A member of the William Blount High School Dance Team, Keown was on her way home to retrieve her pom poms for dance practice when the crash happened. Keown’s mother, Amanda Moore, said she received a text message from her daughter just before the crash.
“(It) said she forgot her pom poms, and she was going to go home and get them,” Moore said. “I texted her back and said ‘OK, Babe, be careful.’ And she never made it home.”
Amber Young, the dance team coach, said Keown was the team’s “spirit leader,” a title not given lightly.
“In the 10 years that I’ve been coaching there, she’s only been the second person to receive this leadership title,” Young said.
It’s a title reserved for those who are not only outstanding dancers but for those who act as role models for other students, Young explained.
“She’s the kind of person that when you meet her, you just know she’s special,” Young said. “There’s just something about her that’s beautiful inside and out.”
When they heard about the accident, Young, the team and assistant coach Chelsea Harmon were at practice. And both Young and Harmon said Keown will be sorely missed.
“We’ve lost girls — they graduate, they move on — and they always come back to visit,” Harmon said. “But this is unfathomable.”
But the coaches said Keown will always have a special place in the hearts of all those on the team. They even plan to dedicate all remaining performances in the year to Keown’s memory, who will now act as the team’s “guardian angel,” they said.
“We’re going to give every performance ‘Amelia-ion percent,’” Harmon said.
Moore said her daughter had planned to go to nursing school and was looking at the University of Tennessee among other schools. Moore said her daughter had decided to become a nurse after Moore was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2004.
“She had so much going for her,” Moore said. “She just got her license a month ago and she was so excited to have her car. She had her first job, her first car and she was spirit leader of the dance team. She had everything going for her.”
School officials have temporarily staffed William Blount High School with extra counselors, said Dr. Jane Morton, supervisor of instruction for grades 6-12. A Blount County Sheriff’s Office chaplain has also visited the school.
The William Blount High School community has reacted to Tuesday’s tragedy by pulling together as a family, Clark said.
Keown, who was an active student, was an honors student and member of the school’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) chapter. She also served as WBHS Dance Team’s spirit leader.
Keown’s favorite color was pink, and high-schoolers wore pink Wednesday in her memory, Clark said. He estimated at least half of the student body wore pink.
William Blount High School is also organizing a “pink out” for Friday’s football game against Sevier County, he said. In lieu of a performance, the school’s dance team will introduce its members and hold a moment of silence for Keown.
Community members are organizing events in the student’s memory, as well.
Bel Air Grill plans to hold an Aug. 23 fundraiser, Clark said. For all customers who wear a pink ribbon, the business will donate a percentage of their sales to the Amelia Keown Memorial Fund.
Community members can also donate directly to the memorial fund, he said. All checks should be made out to the Amelia Keown Memorial Fund and sent to William Blount High School c/o WBHS Dance Team, 219 County Farm Road, Maryville, TN 37801.
Daily times reporters Iva Butler, J.J. Kindred, Matthew Stewart and Wes Wade contributed to this article.