Three students die in I-65 crash; memorial scheduled for Friday

Beth Wilberding

A weekend trip to Louisville has turned into sorrow and grief for five students, their families and friends.

Three students were killed and two were injured on Saturday morning when the vehicle they were riding in skidded off Interstate 65.

Students, faculty and staff back on the Hill were left trying to cope with the loss of the three women.

Rachel Blevins, 19, of Oakland, Rachel Cate, 18, of Nashville and Katie Jeter, 19, of Franklin, Tenn., were all pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck.

Jessica Sutton, 19, of Hendersonville, Tenn., and Cara Wright, 18, of Germantown, Tenn., were taken to Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown and have been released.

The five women, all freshmen, were members of Phi Mu sorority.

The accident was a shock to many people on campus.

President Gary Ransdell said Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services, called and told him about the accident on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s the type of call I fear the most in this job,” Randsell said. “My heart goes out to their family and to their sorority sisters and other friends.”

Phi Mu chapter president Ashley McCarty described each woman fondly in a statement, calling Jeter “outstanding,” Blevins “compassionate” and Cate “generous.”

The sorority members left yesterday for the Nashville area to attend visitations for Cate and Jeter. Blevins’ visitation is today in Oakland.

Western is hosting a memorial service 6 p.m. Friday in Van Meter Auditorium.

“Everybody, Greek, non-Greek, the Bowling Green community – anybody’s invited,” said Charley Pride, director of student activities and organizations.

But some wouldn’t wait until then.

Fans attending the men’s basketball game against West Virginia Tech on Sunday night had a moment of silence for the women. Members of other sororities wore black ribbons to honor the students’ memory.

Ransdell said any memorial activities on campus will be directed to the sorority’s wishes.

“We’re kind of letting the sorority take the lead in doing what is most meaningful to them,” Ransdell said.

Pride said community members can send items to the Phi Mu house on Normal Drive or through his office to be delivered.

The women were on their way to a regional sorority meeting in Louisville when their vehicle went off the road and hit a rock wall before rolling over.

“It’s going to be difficult to determine exactly what speed they were going,” said Steve Pavey, public affairs officer for the Kentucky State Police post in Elizabethtown.

Witnesses told state police that the Acura SUV was speeding, Pavey said. A light snow was falling and caused slick road conditions at 8:15 a.m. EST, the time of the accident.

Two of the women killed were sitting in the front seat and the other was in the back seat, Pavey said. The exact placement of the women in the vehicle won’t be released until later this week.

Sutton was released from the emergency room the same night, hospital spokesman Sean Redding said. Wright was held for observation and released the next day.

The women were traveling to Louisville as part of a caravan with some of their sorority sisters, said Kurt Jeter, Katie Jeter’s father.

The sorority members were going to a state meeting of Phi Mu members, said Margo Grace, president of their house corporation.

The event was not mandatory, she said.

“It was just an opportunity for women of other chapters to get together,” she said.

He said there were five cars traveling north on I-65 and they had been communicating by cell phone.

“I think, through the cell phone line, they made a decision to turn back probably at the next exit,” Jeter said. “They just didn’t get there.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]