UPDATE: Family and friends mourn Rhea County teen's death
UPDATE: Family and friends gathered Friday to say goodbye to Chelsea Gunter. She was a Rhea County High School freshmen who died in a car crash Wednesday.
It happened on White Flats Road in Dayton, TN.
“The accident happened right behind my house. The road behind me is just walking distance,” Chelsea’s uncle, Mickey Gunter, Jr., said.
Gunter and his brother, Clint Gunter, said Chelsea was with two friends. They believe they were heading to her dad's house. They say Chelsea was not feeling well, so she took her seatbelt off to lay down in the backseat. Moments later, the car drove off the road.
“They topped a hill and the tire has went off the edge, the edge of the road and caused them wreck,” Clint explained.
State troopers said the car flipped several times, and Chelsea was thrown from the car. Her family is now asking why.
“You know, you never when it's going to be your child or someone related to you,” Clint said.
"Every time you get in a vehicle, buckle that seatbelt up before you do anything else because we can't say that it would have saved her life, but her chances of survival would have been so much greater," Mickey said.
At just 15-years-old, Chelsea’s family believes she touched many lives.
“She was a very loving girl. Anyone she met, she brought a smile to their face,” Mickey said.
A true Nana's girl is how her uncles described her. A blue glass vase of white flowers sits in her Nana's front room. They say they were a gift from Chelsea.
“The day before this all happened, Chelsea took her last $5 dollars and bought these flowers for her Nana," Mickey said. "Nana has told us that there was never a time that Chelsea left home or even hung up the phone with her that she didn't tell her she loved her.”
At school on Wednesday, just hours before the crash, Chelsea left a note for her math teacher. It read, “don't be sad, be glad,” signed by Chelsea with a smiley face.
Rhea County High School Principal Jesse Messimer told Channel 3 over the phone, “The school will miss her personality and character in our building. Her family is in our hearts.”
Messimer said the school will honor Chelsea with her graduating class in three years. During the graduation ceremony, her name will be called three times and a balloon will be released. A chair will also sit out where Chelsea would have sat.
Since the crash, the Rhea County community has donated more than $9,000 through GoFundMe to help with Chelsea’s burial.
“We just want to thank all the people who donated so we can give her a proper funeral because we don't know what we would have done,” Mickey said.
Visitation for Chelsea was held Friday at 5:00 pm. She will be laid to rest Saturday at 2:00 pm in the chapel of Coulter-Garrison Funeral Home.
PREVIOUS STORY: A Rhea County student was killed in a crash Wednesday.
Chelsea Gunter, 15, was a 9th-grade student at Rhea County High School, Rhea County Director of Schools Jerry Levengood confirmed to Channel 3.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol said Gunter was killed in a single vehicle crash just after 8:15 pm.
The crash happened on White Flats Road in Dayton. The THP said the vehicle was traveling west when it left the roadway, ran into a ditch and flipped several times. Gunter, the backseat passenger in the vehicle, was thrown from the car.
The THP said Gunter was not wearing a seatbelt, and safety restraints would have made a difference.
The driver and a second passenger are both minors and were injured.
Charges are pending against the driver.
According to Coulter-Garrison Funeral Home, Gunter died at the hospital.
A GoFundMe has been set up by Gunter's uncle to raise money to cover funeral expenses.
Director Levengood told Channel 3 counselors were on hand at the school Thursday and will be there again Friday to help students.
Channel 3 is working to learn more. We will keep you updated.