Southern Ill. schools help rally behind Benton community after 3 teens die in crash

Southern Ill. high schools show support for Benton community.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:45 PM CDT
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WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. (KFVS) - Schools throughout southern Illinois are offering their support to two high schools in Franklin County, as they grieve the sudden loss of three students.

On Tuesday, September 19, we learned the names of those students.

The Franklin County coroner confirmed 17-year-old Bradley Williams, 16-year-old Landen Agnitsch and 15-year-old Joecy Padavic died on Saturday after a car crash in Franklin County.

All three were students at the Benton Consolidated High School.

Two other people were injured in the crash, the survivors are students at West Frankfort.

Benton High School is just an 8-mile drive from Frankfort Community High School, so there’s a natural rivalry. But after this weekend’s crash, things have changed.

“First, we wanted to make the shirts for school spirit, just like a good fundraiser and stuff,” Carly Hoffard, senior cheerleader at Frankfort Community High School, said.

When members of the Frankfort Community High School cheerleading team heard what happened just miles away from their school, they knew they wanted to help their Franklin County neighbor.

“We just wanted to change the rival and just give all the money to all the people on the funds, so we hope this changes everything and I’m so glad we all came together,” Hoffard continued.

Now, all the money raised from the sale of these homecoming shirts will be donated to help pay for medical bills and funeral costs after Saturday night’s deadly crash.

Southern Illinois Schools help rally behind the Benton Community.
Southern Illinois Schools help rally behind the Benton Community.(Colin Baillie)

“At the end of the day, Benton has always been our number one rival, but I hope after all of this we can just show each other our support and how much we truly do love each other and how much southern Illinois can come together as two towns, as one, not two big rivals anymore,” said Emma Chick, senior cheerleader at Frankfort Community High School.

And that spirit has rippled throughout southern Illinois.

“We wanted to let them know that we’re supporting them, whatever they need,” said Emmy Vinson, senior at Vienna High School.

Students and staff at Vienna High School remembered the Franklin County victims with a prayer circle during lunch hour on Tuesday.

For them, the weekend crash is a solemn reminder of a similar tragedy that hit their school nearly three years ago, when three Johnson County students died in a car crash.

“I know when we went through it, a lot of schools did the same for us, so I think we’re trying to do the same for them, be there for them, show our support,” Vinson said.

And the Vienna school community wants to be their for the Benton community.

“You just feel for those families, and you feel for those victims, your heart goes out to them because we know what it feels like,” said Jaylyn Rademaker, senior at Vienna High School.

Meanwhile, members of the Redbirds cheer team just want to be there for the Ranger family.

“We know how much this can affect somebody. Obviously, we can’t feel their pain but we had a part in this accident and we just want to do everything we can to show our support and love to a local community,” Emma Chick added.

If you are wanting to purchase a homecoming shirt from Frankfort Community High School, you will have to purchase it off of the Frankfort Community High School cheer coach’s Facebook page. You can find that link here.