kills W. Salem junior
Stefanie Knowlton and Dan De Carbonel
West Salem High School junior died in a car crash
Saturday night as she and her date made their way
to the high school prom in Independence.
was meant to be a special night for Samantha
Hopper and Kevin Stich, both 17, turned tragic
when Stich apparently lost control of the car and
hit the cement wall of a railroad-trestle
underpass. Hopper suffered a fatal head injury
and died a few hours later.
was taken to Salem Hospital, where he was treated
and released, a nursing supervisor said.
crash happened just after 9 p.m. Saturday in the
5900 block of River Road S, near Halls Ferry
Road. That's where the road makes a sharp
S-shaped turn as it dips beneath the railroad
trestle that bisects River Road between Salem and
Independence. The speed limit through the section
is 15 mph.
a North Salem High School senior, was driving a
Toyota MR2 west on River Road S. He apparently
lost control of the car as it approached the
trestle underpass, said Sgt. Jeff Wheeler of the
Marion County Sheriff's Office.
accident still is under investigation, Wheeler
said. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be
factors in the accident.
teens were on their way to Green Villa Farms for
West Salem High's prom. No announcement was made
during the prom, but students returning home
after extended outings heard the sad news early
counselors will be on hand today at West Salem
High to comfort Hopper's friends and fellow
students. Counselors also will be at North Salem
was named a Statesman Journal Academic All-Star
earlier this year on the basis of his academic
performance and other school activities.
was well-known, said West Salem High School
Principal Ed John.
going to be lots of students who know her and who
will be saddened," he said.
was part of a robotics team that was scheduled to
present its project at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in Boston next month. She
also played junior varsity basketball and ran
track at West Salem High.
basketball coach, Jason Unruh, was stunned by the
makes things you think are important in your life
not so important," Unruh said.
made the news even more difficult was the loss of
such a warm-hearted student, he said.
was so sweet," he said. "She was such a
joy to have in our basketball program."
recalled Hopper's enthusiasm for the basketball
team, both on and off the court.
worked for eight hours in the blazing sun at the
Art Fair last year to raise money for the
basketball program, he said. She never
complained, only smiled and found things to laugh
will be sorely missed, that's for sure," he
said. "My heart goes out to her parents, her
family and her friends."
mother, Leslie Stich, said her son was recovering
and was surrounded by friends. "He's had an
outpouring of support. He's just
devastated," she said.
Stich said her son had been dating Hopper for
about two months and met on a robotics team at
West. They attended the North Salem prom together
with teen's death
May 3, 2005
Dan De Carbonel
West Salem High School returned to a campus
Monday that seemed a bit emptier without
classmate Samantha Hopper.
much of the day sharing hugs and memories of the
bright and cheerful junior, students and faculty
leaned on one another for support.
17, and her date, North Salem senior Kevin Stich,
crashed into a railroad trestle while traveling
to the West Salem High School prom Saturday
died a few hours after the crash. Stich survived
the crash with minor injuries and was at West
Salem High on Monday sharing his grief with
Hopper's other close friends.
been really subdued all day," said Andrew
Esther, 17, a West Salem junior. "We're just
soaking it in. No one was very talkative, but
there was a lot of laughing and crying as we were
sharing the memories of the good times."
counselors will remain on campus as long as
needed, school officials said.
Marion County Sheriff's Office has ruled out
alcohol or drugs being involved in the crash,
Deputy Kevin Rau said.
didn't surprise friends, who said Stich and
Hopper stayed away from drugs and alcohol. Others
said it was particularly hard to understand why
the crash happened, because Stich had a
reputation for being a careful driver.
of all the people this had to happen to, to have
it happen to Sam and Kevin doesn't make
sense," Esther said. "It doesn't seem
fair. I'm still in shock."
Lundy, junior class president at West Salem, said
she expected classmates to continue to lean on
one another during the difficult days ahead.
know Sam would want us to stay strong,"
Lundy said. "We just have to make sure we
stick together and really unify as a class."
said that when he thinks of Hopper, he always
thinks of her smile.
she was in a crowd, she always stood out with her
smile," he said. "A picture of her
wouldn't do her justice."
said that behind the smile was an extremely
intelligent, focused and determined person who
accepted nothing less than the best from herself
would never let me just slide by," Esther
said. "She'd always try and get me to do
better on something because she believed in
and friend Amy Hafer and other members of the
West Salem robotics team were preparing to attend
a competition at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology next month. They will go, but minus
one big part of the team.
planned to go to college together. Even if I make
a million dollars, it wouldn't matter,"
Hafer said. "It's the relationships you make
and the friendships you make that is important in