It was an emotional day for students, staff and teachers at West Side High School as they mourned the loss of two of their own. Seventeen-year-old Kendall Alford and 18-year-old Nathaniel Williams both died in a car crash Wednesday, and while police continue to investigate if the teens were dragging racing at the time of the accident, school officials are having to answer questions about how the two managed to leave campus in the first place.
School officials are still trying to figure out how Alford and Williams managed to leave the closed campus of West Side High School just hours before the two seniors died in a car crash. Two security aides at the school are now being questioned regarding the incident.
"When we find that students are off campus as these students obviously were, then that always raises a red flag and just makes us think what else could we have done," said West Side High School Principal Diane Rouse.
According to school district policy, the Gary high school has a closed campus, which means students are expected to remain on school property until the end of the class day at 3 p.m. Some of the exceptions include students who leave mid-day for co-op or work-study programs and those who have passes.
But, Thursday morning, students could be seen leaving the school building -- apparently at will.
"I just leave," said student Derrix Calloway, who added nobody has ever tried to stop him.
Both Alford and Williams were West Side High School seniors who died Wednesday afternoon after the car they were traveling crashed near the intersection of 15th and Colfax. Witnesses tell investigators the boys were returning to Gary from nearby Hammond around 2:15 p.m. when the crash happened. Investigators say it appears their vehicle hit a pothole and went airborne before striking a light pole and splitting in two.
Detectives will not confirm reports that the teens were drag racing, but only that speed was a factor in the fatal accident.
"Investigators are still at the scene and getting all the information they can and talking to whoever may have seen the accident and trying to glean all the information to get it together and get it out to the public," said Cmdr. Richard Allen, Gary Police Department.
In light of the deaths, grief counselors were on hand to help students, staff, and teachers deal with the school's latest tragedy, which comes two years after the deaths of two other West Side students in an unrelated car crash.
Alford played baseball. Both teens were enjoying their last year in high school and are being remembered as kids who will never get to experience their bright futures.
"Nate was always up to something. But it wasn't bad, nothing like that, though. I wouldn't expect something like that from them," said Tristan Weddington, victims' friend.
"When I found out what was happening, it was a really big tragedy for me, because I was cool with them," said Kenyonda Moore, victims' friend.
A spokesperson for the Gary school district says the incident is still under investigation. They are looking into whether any of the security aides saw the boys leave and did nothing, or if they ever saw the teens leave at all.