Watch CBS News

Emotional prayer service remembers Pittsburgh-area student killed in school van crash

Community comes together for vigil for 15-year-old student killed in crash
Community comes together for vigil for 15-year-old student killed in crash 02:28

MCKEESPORT, Pa. (KDKA) — The Serra Catholic High School community is mourning the loss of Samantha Kalkbrenner, a beloved student who was killed in a school van crash on Wednesday. 

More than 24 hours later, hundreds gathered at the school's football field on Thursday for an intimate prayer service to show their support for her family. Through song and prayer, the Serra Catholic community honored one of their own. 

The sophomore's life was cut short on the way to school Wednesday morning. Police said the deadly crash happened by Third Street and Richland Avenue in Dravosburg when the driver of a car crashed into the school van, causing it to flip over. Kalkbrenner died at the scene. EMS crews transported three other students to the hospital in stable condition, along with the two drivers.

Serra Catholic High School Principal Robert Childs talked about the legacy she left behind to the sound of weeping amongst the crowd.

"Remembering her will not be difficult because she was loved by all," Childs said. "Her perpetual smile radiated joy and love to all she met. She was the beating heart of her class and her cheerleading squad."

Friends told KDKA-TV that she was a member of St. Thomas The Apostle youth group at St. Therese Church in Munhall. In July, she spent 10 days in Kentucky on a mission building houses for the less fortunate.

Countless friends took to the microphone, holding back tears, to remember Kalkbrenner on Thursday. 

"I can't believe I'll never hear her voice again," one friend said.

"Her smile brought so much warmth and comfort to those around her," another friend said.

They said Kalkbrenner had an energy that couldn't be matched and was one of the funniest human beings, saying she should still be here laughing and having fun.

"Her position on the sidelines during football games will remain empty, just like a piece of all of our hearts remain empty," Childs said.

Several feet away from behind the press box, about a dozen neighbors watched, including Diane Jones and Donna Meneely.

"I couldn't imagine being a parent losing a child," Meneely said.

They're a tight-knit community and wanted to show those in mourning they have their backs.

"It's just terribly sad," Jones said. "The community is behind them and supportive of their needs, and hopefully they will stay strong and get through this."

The impact felt near and far, as the Serra Catholic family vows Kalkbrenner will never be forgotten.

"We will always be here for you as we grieve together for this beautiful child who God called home too soon," Childs said.

All Serra Catholic classes and activities are canceled through Sunday.

Kalkbrenner will be laid to rest on Monday at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish – St. Therese Church in Munhall following visitation over the weekend at Gilbert Funeral Home in White Oak.

Police are not saying if speed was a factor in the crash, but KDKA-TV learned before the incident two vehicles may have been racing across the Mansfield Bridge and t-boned the school van.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.