It isn’t hard to know what 16-year-old Bonner — killed in a Saturday morning accident in Oxford — loved. Her mother, Cristal Bonner, spread out a stack of photographs across a desk Tuesday morning. In each, Bonner is smiling or making a funny face, covered in mud and standing near pickup trucks with friends.
That’s where she had been the night of the accident. Out with her crew of friends riding in the mud at a place her mother said they call “Kentuck,” a series of trails through the woods around Kentuck Road and CC Road in Oxford.
Bonner, a sophomore at Oxford High School, was coming home from those trails early Saturday morning, riding in a pickup truck with a recent Oxford graduate, 19-year-old James Michael “Trey” Phillips III when the truck left the roadway shortly after midnight at the intersection of McIntosh Road and CC Road in Oxford. Both teens were killed.
Another Oxford teenager, Steven Horton, 19, was recovering from numerous injuries Tuesday at a Birmingham hospital. He was driving a separate truck, which was also involved in the crash.
Both vehicles left the roadway on the same side of the road and were found 20 feet apart after both struck trees along the roadside, said Oxford Fire Department Chief Gary Sparks.
The cause of the accident remained under investigation Tuesday, according to Sgt. Steve Jarrett of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
Phillips and Bonner had stopped to help Horton start his truck and were following him home when the wreck occurred, Phillips’ grandfather, Michael Phillips, said Monday.
Rodney Bonner struggled at times as he talked about how much his daughter loved her friends and her Chihuahua, Little Bit, and how she dreamed of having her own truck. He was planning to buy her one in January.
“You never think about it … we were worried about what she was going to do when we died,” he said.
At a candlelight vigil for Bonner Sunday night at Oxford’s Bannister Park, Bonner’s grandmother Kitty White recalled seeing all those cars and trucks. Hundreds, she said, and all there because of her granddaughter.
“I was amazed at it,” White said. “… They say not to ask why, but you still do. Why at 16?”
In a small, well-worn yellow notebook Bonner kept for school, she wrote about what she liked and about her hopes. Her parents flipped through the pages reading aloud passages they thought told Bonner’s story best.
“What’s something you do very well?” was a question posed at the top of one page. “Something I do very well is to help others. I love to help others who really need it. That’s something I really enjoy doing,” Brittney wrote in response.
She wanted to become either a teacher or a counselor, her parents said. She was a people person, they said, and wanted to find a way to help.
“What is your idea of having a fun evening?” was written atop another page.
“Going mud-riding on Kentuck with my crew,” Bonner wrote.
That’s where she loved to be. With her friends, riding in a truck and laughing and being herself, the girl’s father said.
Funeral arrangements for Bonner were yet to be announced Tuesday. Visitation for James Michael “Trey” Phillips will be held Thursday from 5-8 p.m. at the Miller Funeral Home in Oxford, with the service to follow Friday at 2 p.m. at the funeral home.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.