Friends mourn death of assistant principal, family after crash

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky State Police and firefighters said it was the worst crash they've ever seen. Glass and debris littered the road, closing down US Highway 25E for several hours, in Knox County, on Christmas Eve. Five people were killed, according to KSP.

Investigators say David Vanderpool, 31, of Williamsburg, was traveling southbound when he drove his car off the and went airborne over the median, hitting another car. KSP says Gary and Patricia Caldwell were killed, along with their daughter Julia Robinson and their son-in-law Brent Robinson, from Florida.

"At this time, it's undetermined if any alcohol was a factor," stated Sgt. Jimmy Young, of the Kentucky State Police post in Harlan.

Police say Vanderpool and both of the Robinsons in the other car were not wearing seat belts.

"I hope that everyone will be more apt to what's going on, on the roadways and pay more attention," said Sgt. Young.

On this holiday, word of the deadly crash shocked those closest to the victims.

"You know you're going to question why a whole family was taken on Christmas Eve," said Connie Engle who teaches at the same elementary school where Patricia Caldwell was an assistant principle.

"Mrs. Caldwell was a bright spot. She loved her school. She loved the children. Mrs. Caldwell always found the right words."

Meanwhile, her friend is left searching for those right words.

"I was numb, (devastated), I didn't know what to do," described the teacher.

Engle says their son was at the family's home waiting everyone to come back after picking up the Robinsons at the airport.

"She will be greatly missed," said Engle, fighting back tears.

The State Police are still investigating what led to the crash.

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