Alcohol may play into fatal wreck in Itawamba County

By Danza Johnson and Stephanie Rebman/NEMS Daily Journal

MANTACHIE – A 17-year-old was killed on her prom night Friday by what the Mississippi Highway Patrol suspects was a drunk driver going the wrong way.
April Stamper of Mantachie was pronounced dead at North Mississippi Medical Center after being involved in a three-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 78 just outside of Fulton around 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Trooper Ray Hall said it appears that a woman, driving alone, was on the wrong side of the highway when her car collided head-on with the teens.
Cheryl Arnold, 33, of Saltillo was driving a 2011 Hyundai traveling east in the westbound lane on 78 near the waterway bridge. Arnold collided with a pickup truck driven by Jessie Nanney, 17, of Mantachie. After the first collision, Arnold’s vehicle then struck another vehicle driven by Lindsey O. Cockrell, 17, of Mantachie.
Stamper, who was a passenger in Nanney’s vehicle with Elizabeth Buse, 16, and the other teens did nothing wrong in the accident, Hall said. Nor did the third car involved, which contained another teen driving back from prom. Hall said all the teens were wearing their seat belts and the drivers were not speeding.
The four teens were headed back from Fulton after getting ice cream when the accident happened.
“These students were all being responsible,” said Hall. “They were all buckled up, speed was not a factor and there was no alcohol or drug use involved with any of the students. They were coming from Fulton, where we were told they had went to get ice cream. It is very unfortunate for us to investigate a wreck involving these responsible teenagers.”
Mantachie High School Principal Jeff Credille said Stamper was more than responsible. She was a model student and along with best friend Buse, was an office worker at the school.
“She was very active in school,” he said. “I just can’t say enough. She was a great kid. She was a type kid that everyone wanted in their classroom. She was well-liked by her classmates. We loved April.”
Stamper’s friend and classmate, Sanvernetas Deushan Thomas, said she was in the Beta Club, Science Club, Math Club and FCA. She also loved the color lime green, being outside, watching movies and candy.
“She was a good Christian girl who loved to hang out with her friends and family,” he said. “At school, April was the one who always had a smile on her face. If you were feeling sad or troubled, April knew just what to say to make your day better.”
Credille said he has lined up for more counselors to come to the school Monday morning and will get some of the local youth pastors to come help. Stamper was involved in Fawn Grove Freewill Baptist Church, said her youth pastor, David Knight.
“She was just always willing to grow as a Christian,” Knight said. “She always sang in church and she loved to do mission stuff and she’s just a great role model.”
Stamper was extracted from the vehicle and airlifted to NMMC where she later died. Buse was in surgery on Saturday, with more to come at NMMC, said Credille. As of Saturday morning, only one teen had been treated and released.
Arnold was in life-threatening condition Saturday.
“I hate this tragedy happened,” Credille said. “I don’t have a word to say how great of a kid she was. There’s not a word in the dictionary.”
Stamper’s visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Fawn Grove Freewill Baptist Church.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com. Contact Stephanie Rebman (662) 678-1585 or stephanie.rebman@journalinc.com.