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15-year-old killed in Pittsburgh-area school van crash remembered by her principal: 'She was loved by all'

15-year-old killed in Pittsburgh-area school van remembered by her principal
15-year-old killed in Pittsburgh-area school van crash remembered by her principal 02:36

MCKEESPORT, Pa. (KDKA) -- The Serra Catholic school community continues to mourn the death of student Samantha Kalkbrenner who died tragically when a car collided with the school van she was riding in on the way to school Wednesday morning.

It's been an agonizing 72 hours for this entire community. Whether you knew Samantha Kalkbrenner or not, she'll never be forgotten. 

"She was the beating heart of her class," Serra Catholic Principal Robert Childs said, holding back tears as he spoke to the media Friday morning for the first time since sophomore Samantha Kalkbrenner was killed. 

Childs says Kalkbrenner was perfect in every way. 

"The way she treated everyone, the way she was kind to everyone," Childs said. 

Childs recalls pulling into the parking lot of the high school that fateful morning and getting a call from a parent, who is a local police officer, about the crash. 

"He told me right off the bat that it was bad," Childs said.

Childs says he and his staff quickly went into action. He says the assistant principal went to Children's Hospital where the other three students injured were taken. And Childs rushed to the scene. 

"Going over to the scene was just ... it was tough to see," he said.

Childs promised Kalkbrenner's class, the class of 2026, that she will always be with them, right up to graduation, where her spot will be saved for her.

Samantha's artwork, he says, will be displayed in the school hallway and her picture will hang in the lobby for years to come. 

"For us who remain, remembering her will not be difficult for she was loved by all," Childs said. 

In a heartfelt letter read by Childs, he says while the community is grieving, they take solace knowing in Kalkbrenner's short 15 years, she made an everlasting impact on her church, her school and her family and friends. 

"Serra Catholic will never forget Samantha and will always be here for you as we grieve together for this beautiful child who God called home," Childs said.

Two of the other three students injured in the fatal crash have been released from the hospital, one of them even attending Thursday night's prayer vigil.

Serra Catholic High School announced funeral plans on Friday, saying friends are welcome Sept. 23 from 4-8 p.m. and Sept. 24 from 2-8 p.m. at the Gilbert Funeral Home and Crematory in White Oak. A mass and burial is scheduled for Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas The Apostle Parish-St. Therese Church in Munhall. 

The school said it's finalizing plans to take students to the funeral. 

School will remain closed on Monday. 

KDKA-TV checked in with county police and they say there are no updates on the investigation. 

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