BROWN COUNTY — A 2017 Columbus East graduate who had just started classes at Indiana University in Bloomington died in a two-vehicle accident on west State Road 46 in Brown County.
Kate Beckley, 18, Columbus, died at the scene of the 9:34 a.m. Thursday accident in the 1600 block of State Road 46 West near the west gate entrance to Brown County State Park.
Her car, a 1996 Chrysler Sebring, crossed the centerline while traveling westbound when she lost control of the vehicle for an unknown reason and struck an eastbound Wagler Trucking tri-axle dump truck driven by Anthony Wagler, 44, of Nashville, Brown County Sheriff’s deputies said.
Wagler was not injured but was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for a blood draw, which is a standard procedure in fatal crashes, deputies said.
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Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. officials learned of Beckley’s death Thursday afternoon by investigators after her family was notified.
Columbus East counselor Brian Hansen had worked with Beckley as she prepared for college this year.
Hansen recalled that Beckley had spent her first two years of high school at Columbus North and then did online courses her junior year, he said. She enrolled at East for her senior year and was a member of the tennis team, he said.
She made the honor roll at both Columbus North and Columbus East senior.
“She had excellent grades and got along with everybody,” he said.
Hansen said Beckley had not yet finalized what major she wanted to pursue in college, but remembered she had mentioned psychology as a possibility.
“This is only my second year at East and this is the first one we’ve lost in the group since I’ve been here,” he said. “This has hit a lot of people really hard. It’s hit me really hard.”
Beckley had served as a cadet teacher during her senior year with Genevra Dewhirst, a teacher in the English department at East. Students receive community service points for helping teachers work on bulletin boards and displays and doing filing or other tasks, Dewhirst said.
Beckley would stop in at Dewhirst’s classroom during the teacher’s planning period and the two had time to chat, Dewhirst said.
Her teacher thought she might be considering a career in education.
“She was lovely,” Dewhirst said. “One of the things I really liked about her was how genuine she was — how she cared about people.”
Beckley was one of the few people who would ask a teacher if they were having a bad day, Dewhirst said.
“She could read people that way,” she said.
Dewhirst remembers Beckley also being musical, taking piano lessons while she was at East.
“What I liked about her was just how positive she was,” Dewhirst said. “When she struggled a little with her senior project, she just said ‘I’ll figure it out.’ She was just positive about it. There was a lightness about her — she was really kind and gentle.”
Beckley was one of the students Dewhirst was hoping to see when the East students who are now college freshman return to the school each year around Thanksgiving to visit their former teachers, she said.
“I remember thinking when she graduated, ‘I know I’m going to see her again,’ “ Dewhirst said. “I had such high hopes for her.”
Beckley was active in Community Church of Columbus in youth group and young adult activities.
Brown County Coroner Earl Piper said Beckley died at the accident scene of massive blunt force trauma, with multiple injuries.
Piper told the Brown County Democrat that an autopsy is not planned but toxicology tests are pending, which is a normal procedure for the drivers of vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
Arrangements are pending for Kate Beckley are pending at Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home in Columbus.
Assisting at the scene were the Nashville Police Department, Indiana State Police, Jackson Township and Nashville volunteer fire departments and Columbus Regional Health ambulance.
The Brown County Democrat, a sister publication of The Republic, contributed to this report.