Bethany Harris, a University of West Alabama cheerleader and former Dora High School valedictorian, died Tuesday morning when her car crashed in Tuscaloosa County.
A press release from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Harris, 19, was traveling on I-59 when her 2007 Scion TC left the roadway near the Joe Mallisham Parkway exit, four miles south of Tusca-loosa, and hit an embankment and a tree.
While the crash occurred at 7:45 a.m., Harris’ body wasn’t found until 2:30 p.m. Initial investigations concluded that the driver, then unidentified, may have left the scene; however, after Harris’ body was found, it was determined she was ejected into a wooded area away from the vehicle. She was not wearing a seat belt.
Senior Trooper Reginal King could not confirm the distance Harris’ body was found from the vehicle crash site, and the accident remains under investigation.
Harris was initially reported missing Tuesday before her passing was later confirmed.
She was a resident of Empire and a 2015 graduate of Dora High School. Harris had just completed her first semester at the University of West Alabama, where she was a cheerleader and a member of the Kappa Xi chapter of UWA’s Phi Mu.
UWA Director of Student Life Richard Hester announced Harris’ passing on the UWA Student Life Facebook page Tuesday night, which read in part: “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and we express our sincere condolences to Bethany’s family. She has many friends at UWA and will be greatly missed by the campus community, throughout which she was known and will be remembered for her dedication in the classroom and on the sidelines of Tiger athletics as a cheerleader. She was also very active in greek life on campus.”
West Alabama football coach Brett Gilliland shared on his Twitter account: “Saddened by the loss of UWA cheerleader Bethany Harris. Our prayers are with all of her family and friends. Lord give them peace and comfort.”
A candlelight vigil was held for Harris at Dora High School Tuesday night, where more thn 100 people showed up to remember their classmate, friend, loved one and for her teachers, their bright student.
“When I [saw] all the people as I was getting out of the car, I immediately called our department chaplain to come out to help everyone cope with the loss of such a great young woman,” Dora Police Chief Jared Hall said in a statement. “Family, friends, educators, ministers, as well as the chaplain spoke to the group and prayed for the family.”
He continued, “I could immediately tell how important she was to the school and the community based on the turnout at the vigil and all the posts on social media.”
Funeral Arrangements posted by Dora High School principal Paige Skalnic
The arrangements for our sweet Bethany Harris will be at New Horizon Funeral Home —Saturday evening viewing at 6 p.m. And the funeral to be held on Sunday at 1 p.m.
I love this picture of her. I know how difficult it is to “transition” from one’s school colors, but it’s obvious she was taking pride in being a UWA Tiger! Thoughts and prayers continue to come in from her friends in surrounding communities.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.