Third Update: Funeral for Ellen Nettles Will Be Held Dec. 21

Decatur High School mourns two students. Ellen Nettles drowned in St. Croix and Madison Lewis killed in Alabama wreck.

3rd Update: The funeral for Ellen Nettles will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 21 at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 435 Peachtree St. NE  Atlanta.

2nd Update: The funeral for Madison Lewis was held at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at Decatur First United Methodist Church at 300 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. Visitation was 2-5 p.m. Sunday at A.S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home at 2773 North Decatur Road, Decatur.

Update: The U.S./Virgin Island Police Department has issued a press release.

Students at grieved Friday after learning that Madison Lewis and Ellen Nettles, two former students who'd played on the softball team together, died Thursday in separate incidents.

Ms. Lewis, 19, a 2010 grad of Decatur High, was killed early Thursday morning when a 1995 Chevy Trailblazer carrying seven people ran off the road and struck a tree in Chambers County, Alabama, according to www.al.com.

Ms. Nettles drowned in St. Croix in the Caribbean, Decatur High principal Lauri McKain said Friday morning. Ms. Nettles attended Decatur High but graduated in 2011 from a high school in Savannah, McKain said.

A press release issued by the U.S./Virgin Island Police Department said the drowning happened as a group of friends swam in the tide pool at Annaly Bay.

"According to the initial police report friends of the victim said they were swimming and the water began to get rough. One of the friends’ asked the victim if she wanted to get out of the water. When the victim started to move out of the water she was pulled under water by the current.  Her body surfaced about five minutes later about 30 feet away from where she was last seen.

"The VIPD marine unit boat recovered the victim in the water. She was transported by boat to the Frederiksted pier where she was taken by ambulance to the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center where she was pronounced dead by medical staff."

McKain said Ms. Nettles was in St. Croix on “gap year” activities. The tragedy is compounded by the April 2009 death of Nettles’ mother, Barbara Gaby Nettles, of cancer.

Ms. Lewis played played third base on the Southern Union Community College softball team in Alabama. Two other school athletes were injured in the wreck on State Road 77,  according to www.al.com..

The driver was charged and authorities said it appeared alcohol was a factor, according to the website.

Decatur High athletic director Carter Wilson said the news came as a one-two punch, with information about Ms. Lewis coming first on Thursday, then the news about Ms. Nettles.

"This is a close community and it hit hard," Wilson said. "This is tough for all of us."

Wilson said coaches cut short or called off practices on Thursday because students were upset.

"We'll be doing everything we can for these students," he said. "Athletics can seem like the most important thing in the world but something like this makes you realize it's not the most important thing."

McKain said the Decatur High softball coach called the team together and gave them the news. Later the players went visited the Lewis home as a group.

McKain said she made an announcement about the deaths at the start of school Friday. Grief counselors have been made available for students.

“Teenagers tend to grieve socially,” she said. “They don’t want to be alone.”

McKain also posted her thoughts about how to support students during this time on her blog.

Diane Loupe December 11, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Here is the AJC obituary for Madison. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?n=madison-lewis&pid=154960274
Diane Loupe December 12, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Principal posted this: A CaringBridge website was created as a tribute to Madison. Visit to keep up to date and leave a message in the guestbook for the Lewis family.Find Chuck and Charlie's site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/chuckandcharlielewis Today will be a particularly tough day for the family and this website will be something that will bring smiles to their faces in the coming weeks as they read our stories and tributes to Madison. Please take the time to write a message to the family if you have something to share.
Gwendolyn Weaver December 14, 2011 at 01:52 PM
My thoughts and prayers are with these families. I, too, am very saddened to hear of these deaths. They are now in the arms of God and He has sent the Comforter to all, who knew, taught, coached and loved them. Let us keep them in our hearts always and cherish each student that we have worked with and continue to work with each and every day. May we always, as educators, staff and community, do our best for all of the students in the City Schools of Decatur, in their memory and of others (parents, students and staff) who are now with the Lord. Gwendolyn Weaver, Retired Educator and Coach, Renfroe Middle School


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