2012 May 05: Colerain community grieves loss of students

5:09 PM, May 4, 2012  |  0 Comments
Two teen girls were killed in a car crash with a semi tractor-trailer May 4. Senior Miranda Lane, 17, of Colerain Township, and her passenger, Mathilde Jessen, 16, a junior, of Green Township, were pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:15 p.m. crash, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. This photo shows where the truck came from the left on Rt. 127 towards the intersection with 73.
Two teen girls were killed in a car crash with a semi tractor-trailer May 4. Senior Miranda Lane, 17, of Colerain Township, and her passenger, Mathilde Jessen, 16, a junior, of Green Township, were pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:15 p.m. crash, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. This photo shows where the truck came from the left on Rt. 127 towards the intersection with 73. | The Enquirer/Tony Jones

The other was a foreign exchange student who thrived on travel and wanted to roam the world capturing stories as a photojournalist.

But in the blink of an eye, they were gone.

The lives of Colerain High School junior Miranda Lane and her passenger, junior Mathilde Jessen, were cut short 4:15 p.m. Thursday when Miranda failed to yield at a stop sign to a semi tractor-trailer on U.S. 127 and Ohio 73 in Butler County.

The two were pronounced dead at the scene.

Now, three families – one an ocean away – and a local school community of more than 2,200 students are grieving.

Both girls were honor roll students who were well-liked among classmates, their families said.

Mathilde worked two jobs in her native city of Svendborg, Denmark, until she could afford to enter into a foreign exchange program at International Student Exchange. She arrived in August and has spent the past year living as an American teenager, absorbing the culture and fitting in with her host family.

“She wanted to know what America was like,” said Elaine Schumacher, 54, a receptionist at Colerain High whose family hosted Mathilde in their Green Township home.

Miranda attended classes part of the day at the high school and also was enrolled in a health-tech program at Butler Tech in Fairfield Township. She, too, was close with her family and envisioned a life of serving others.

“She was a wonderful person inside and out,” said Miranda’s aunt, Donna Henderson of Florence.

The two girls were close, said Pauletta Crowley, spokeswoman for Northwest Schools. Grief counselors spent Friday at Colerain High, talking to students.

Miranda was driving a Honda Civic when the Butler County Sheriff’s Office says she failed to yield at a stop sign to an oncoming tractor-trailer driven by Steve Fish, 48, of West Harrison, Ind. He was uninjured.

A third vehicle, a pickup, was also struck. Its driver, Edward Schatzle, 61, of Milford Township, was taken to University Hospital with minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.

Steve Fish’s wife, Donna, said her husband has been advised by his company not to discuss the incident. But she said he feels terrible about it and tried to stop his truck after the Civic pulled out in front of him.

“He is requesting prayers for the girls’ families,” she said.

Both girls, who were wearing seatbelts, died of internal injuries, said Andy Willis, an investigator with the Butler County Coroner’s Office.

Miranda was en route to her prom date’s house in Oxford. She was going to pick up a permission slip for her mother to sign so she could attend Talawanda High School’s prom Saturday night.

Mathilde went along for the ride.

Miranda’s royal blue prom dress with pink sequins was still at her Colerain Township home Friday. Her family plans to bury her in it.

“She loved blue. It was her favorite color. She just turned 17 on April 29,” Henderson said. “I can’t believe this happened. It is like a bad dream and I am going to wake up and see her face here.”

Miranda was close to her entire family, especially her mother, Cheryl Biehl, and considered her a best friend.

“Cheryl is devastated,” said her cousin Shelley Henderson of Florence.

Relatives said Miranda’s mother, who declined an interview request, knew something was wrong when her daughter didn’t return from the trip or respond to text messages and phone calls.

A law enforcement official arrived at their home at 8:30 p.m. When Biehl saw him at the door, she knew her daughter was gone.

In Green Township, Elaine and Bob Schumacher’s family planned a big dinner celebration Friday, Bob’s 55th birthday. Instead, the family mourned Mathilde’s death.

She fit right in with the family, accompanying them on a hiking and camping trip over spring break to Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Ky.

“She wasn’t a foreign exchange student with us,” Elaine Schumacher said. “She was a family member.”

Their youngest child, Maria, 17, was the same age as Mathilde, and the two became as close as sisters. She even called Elaine Schumacher “Mama.”

“She felt like my daughter. I loved her as my daughter and disciplined her like my daughter,” Schumacher said, breaking down into tears. “And I grieve for her like a daughter.”

When sheriff’s deputies broke the news to the family Thursday night, she said she requested that International Student Exchange alert Mathilde’s family in Denmark, where she leaves behind her parents, a twin sister and younger brother.

Mathilde’s international status presents a bit of a challenge. Her body must be held here about two weeks and cannot be flown home until U.S. and Danish officials identify it. Once her body leaves the Butler County Morgue, it will be held at Frederick Funeral Home in Colerain Township.

When services are held in Denmark, the Schumachers plan to attend.

Elaine Schumacher said she spoke on the phone with Mathilde’s mother Thursday.

“They are beside themselves, but she did tell me she didn’t think Mathilde could have been in any better place in America than where she was. She knew she was getting the experience of a lifetime and was thrilled for her daughter.

“I told her how sorry I was and she said ‘Elaine, don’t be sorry. There was nothing anyone could do. We both shared a beautiful girl.’ “

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