Friends say Lanie Margaret Bizzell was a sweet and generous person, someone who made the room light up with her love and faith.
Bizzell died March 2 on her way to church. State troopers are still trying to figure out why her car went off of N.C. 96 and wound up overturned in a small stream.
Bizzell, 16, was driving a Honda Civic when the accident happened just before 8 a.m. near Dunn Road, not far from her home, the State Highway Patrol said. She was on her way to a breakfast of 11th-graders at her church, Horne Memorial United Methodist in Clayton.
The investigation is ongoing, but Sgt. C.W. Lawrance said officials might never find out what happened. Speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash, he said.
In commenting on a newspaper story about the accident, a Facebook user asked whether Bizzell had been texting while driving. In response to that comment, Bizzell’s father said he had checked her phone and found no evidence that she was texting, though investigators have not ruled that out.
Bizzell was a junior at Johnston County Middle College High School. She played piano and sang, and she used to volunteer at Reins from Above, a therapeutic horse-riding center.
“She was extremely generous and very kind and just full of energy,” said her youth pastor, Brad Lopp. “She really cared for everybody around her.”
Last Sunday night, about 150 teens gathered at the church to grieve, support each other and remember Bizzell, Lopp said. “It’s tough. Lanie was very special,” he said. “There’s no easy way to deal with loss.”
Bizzell was active in the youth program, Lopp said. She did more than just attend meetings; she also attended conferences and went on mission trips, he said.
Abby Martin, a friend in her youth group, was supposed to go to a church conference with Bizzell this month.
“She was so ready for it,” Martin said. The conference, called Global Visions, is for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. It’s run through the United Methodist Church. Students go to Washington and New York City while attending seminars about Christianity.
Martin said they had raised money for the conference and made plans about what to do on the trip.
“We were going to go to Broadway together,” Martin said. “She was going to the Lilly Pulitzer store to buy a Lilly dress ... and I know it would look beautiful with her.”
“Lanie was somebody who you could always count on to be there for you,” Martin said. “She loved everybody so much, and she had this passion and love for God that was like no other.”
After one church trip, Bizzell felt inspired to start a club at her former high school, Corinth Holders High, aimed at ending human trafficking.
“Anyone that knew her could tell you that she had a very loving heart and that she really is just an amazing person,” said Kasey McFerren, a friend through church and Corinth Holders. “She’s definitely in heaven right now making a really amazing guardian angel.”
Bizzell is survived by her parents, Greg and Gwen Bizzell, and her brother, David. Her father said in a Facebook comment: “As Lanie’s dad, I can tell you we have lost a true angel. She was the light of my life.”
Staff writer Ron Gallagher contributed to this report.