Teen dies in Boone County accident
Emily Longnecker/Eyewitness News
Thorntown - A teenager was killed Tuesday afternoon in a single car accident in Boone County.
Police say 16-year-old Natalie Duke was traveling south on CR 1075 West shortly before 5 p.m. when her vehicle slid off the gravel road and struck a utility pole. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell says Duke was wearing a seatbelt, but the force and nature of the crash was too much for her to survive.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Ms. Duke," Sheriff Campbell said.
Police say speed and inexperience were the main factors in the crash. They believe Duke was traveling at around 70 mph when she lost control of her vehicle. She had just received her driver's license four days earlier.
"She was an inexperienced driver, probably driving a little too fast and lost control on a gravel road," Sheriff Campbell said.
According to investigators, Natalie was staying at a friend's house while her parents were out of town. They say she was headed to that house when she crashed.
Duke was a sophomore honor roll student at Western Boone High School and played soccer and basketball and was part of the 1600-meter relay track team that set a school record last year.
Her track coach, Mark Riggins, had sent her home early from practice Tuesday because she wasn't feeling well. He said he saw emergency vehicles rushing somewhere hours later, but had no idea it was for Natalie.
"I just talked to her a few hours earlier you know," he said. "You see somebody young and then they're gone."
The track team isn't the only group grieving Natalie's loss.
"She had a lot of talents. She was a really smart kid really athletic kid, just a blast to be around," said her soccer coach, Jennifer Fisher. "She kind of had a sparkle abotu her in just a fun way."
Duke's death is the second tragedy to hit the Western Boone Community School District in a little over a month. In March, 13-year-old Brayton Hiland died after an all-terrain vehicle he was riding flipped on top of him.
"Once again, a tragedy has struck our community," said Sheriff Campbell. "What a sad day it is when we lose another young person to a motor vehicle accident."
He added that his department has been working with the school district to prepare them for school on Wednesday. Grief counselors and clergy will be available to assist students who seek it. Chaplains from the sheriff's department will also be on hand to help.
"We need to try to learn from this terrible event that we must be ever vigilant as we drive to make sure we can maintain control of our vehicles," Sheriff Campbell said. "Young drivers need to be even more cautious."