1 Oxford teen recovering from injuries after weekend wreck
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Dec 10, 2012 | 11395 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD — Charred earth and broken trees along a roadside Monday marked the spot where two teens lost their lives and a third was injured in a Saturday morning accident.

The injured teen was recovering Monday at a Birmingham hospital.

Brittney Bonner — a 16-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School, and 19-year-old James Michael “Trey” Phillips III — a recent Oxford graduate — were killed when the pickup truck Phillips was driving left the roadway a few minutes past midnight Saturday, striking a stand of trees at the intersection of McIntosh Road and CC Road just inside Talladega County.

Steven Horton, 19, was driving in a separate pickup and received multiple injuries in the accident, his mother, Brenda Horton, said by phone Monday. The trucks being driven by Horton, a 2012 Oxford graduate, and Phillips both left the road on the same side of the roadway and struck the trees, Oxford Fire Department Chief Gary Sparks told The Star Saturday. Phillips’ truck was engulfed in flames after the accident, Sparks said.

Brenda Horton said her son was recovering well after surgery to repair a broken hip.

“He’s facing more surgeries, but other than that he’s healing well and doing very well,” she said. Horton’s left wrist and hand, and right ankle and shin were also broken. The wrist and foot likely will require more surgery, she said.

Phillips’ grandfather, Michael Phillips, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Oxford, recalled a conversation he and his grandson had Thursday.

“The last words he said to me was ‘Pawpaw, I’ve got 30 people coming to church on Sunday.’ And brother they came. They came, and a few more,” Phillips said of the more than 80 that showed at church to pay their respects to the Phillips family.

Five of those visitors accepted Christ as their savior Sunday, Phillips said, and three more rededicated their lives. It was all because Trey invited them to church, Phillips said.

That was something his grandson did regularly, Phillips said, often stopping by the Books-A-Million bookstore in Oxford before church and loading his truck up with friends and anyone else he could convince to go along with him.

An avid deer-hunter, the younger Phillips loved to spend time in the forest around Mount Cheaha.

“He loved to go to the woods. He was planning to go to the woods at four o’clock this morning when this happened,” Phillips said.

Phillips worked at Legacy Cabinets in Oxford, where his grandfather said he had just learned he was going to be promoted.

“He was so happy all day Thursday. He was just a happy-go-lucky guy. If he had 15 cents in his pocket, he was happy,” Michael Phillips said. “He was the love of my life … we’ll see him after a while though. That’s all I know.”

Phillips and his passenger, Bonner, had stopped to help Horton get his truck started sometime after 11 p.m., his grandfather said, and after getting the truck running, was following Horton home to make sure he arrived safely when the accident occurred.

Attempts Monday to reach friends and family of Bonner were unsuccessful.

The cause of the accident remained under investigation Monday, according to Trooper Charles Dysart, public information officer for the Alabama State Troopers.

Counselors have been made available at Oxford High School for any student wishing to speak with them, said Roy Bennett, student services coordinator for Oxford’s schools.

"This is one of those things where we have a student and two former students who all have families, and our thoughts and prayers are with those families. It's just a really tough time for them," Bennett said Monday.

Funeral arrangements for both Bonner and Phillips were yet to be announced Monday.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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