During Monday classes at Mary E. Phillips High School in Raleigh, the windows were cracked open in 15-year-old Than’ayha Mary McCullers’ former fifth period classroom, welcoming a calm, warm breeze.
Fourteen of her fellow students laughed and cried, remembering McCullers, who along with her friend Christian Lynn Lockamy, died in a head-on collision on Rolesville Road early Saturday. Both girls were from Wendell but went to separate schools.
Few of McCullers’ peers, mostly upperclassmen, knew that she was the youngest in the class, only a freshman. Her humility was one of many ways McCullers had made an impact in her too-short life, said Assistant Principal Kimberly Harrison.
“In my 20 years in education and eight years in administration, I’ve never seen a student more resilient about education,” Harrison said, saying that she told her students to keep McCullers’ legacy alive through education. “She had an air about her. She was wise beyond her years.”
Harrison described McCullers as frequently flashing a beautiful smile paired with a bubbly personality and treating other students in the halls as if they were friends, regardless of their familiarity. And she was very driven, diving fully into her future of becoming a nurse, said Harrison.
Lockamy, 16, also wanted to become a nurse. The Corinth Holders High School 11th-grader was strong-willed, adventurous, focused and hard-working – and a huge Duke fan, said her grandmother, Mary Lockamy.
Christian Lockamy, the oldest of five sisters, worked many days after school at Creative Embroidery, a shop owned by her grandfather, to pay for her car, a 2006 Saturn.
She was driving the Saturn on Saturday morning east on Rolesville Road near Farmfield Drive north of Wendell with McCullers in the front passenger seat. As they crested a hill, they traveled left of center, colliding head-on with a 2008 Mercedes car, authorities said.
Lockamy died at the scene. McCullers was rushed to Wake Medical Center but did not survive.
Kimberly Harris Nipper, 45, the driver of the Mercedes, was transported to Wake Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries and was released.
Alcohol or speed do not appear to be factors in the crash, according to the State Highway Patrol.
Troopers had not filed an accident report as of Monday. Spokesman Lt. Jeff Gordon said “all different avenues including possible cellphone use, if it was even a factor,” were under investigation.