A day after a tragic wreck on Highway 41 in Coarsegold claimed the life of a 20-year-old girl and left another in a fight to keep hers, the Mountain Area community has begun to pour out its support.
O’Neill Ewell, 20 of Bass Lake was killed when, in a silver Volkswagen Jetta sedan, she veered off the eastern side of the highway near Serpa Canyon Road Tuesday afternoon and crashed into a tree. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Her friend and passenger Haley Phillips, 20 of Coarsegold, was airlifted in critical condition to Community Regional Medical Center of Fresno with severe head injuries and broken ribs.
Her cousin Chanelle Parker, on the way to CRMC Wednesday morning, said Phillips was in stable condition though still unconscious.
“It’s definitely overwhelming,” Parker said. “I lost one of my best friends and almost lost my cousin ... it’s definitely not easy. I still feel like this is all just a horrible nightmare.”
Parker said Phillips was showing signs she could wake up soon.
“Everyone is remaining calm given the situation,” Parker said. “Our family knows she will get through this and be better before we know it. She’s one tough cookie.”
Online and throughout the community, support began to form shortly after the crash.
A GoFundMe account was quickly set up to help cover hospital bills for Phillips, available by clicking here. Another was set up for Ewell’s funeral costs but taken down at the request of her family, though they thanked the community for its generosity.
“Thank you all for your love and support,” said Ramona Ewell, Ewell’s mother. “I hope I can move forward with all the strength your prayers are giving.”
Scott Marsh, owner of Slim’s Koffee Shak, including the Oakhurst location where both girls worked, said Wednesday he had yet to work with their families on possibly setting up community fundraisers. But he said his three shops, including locations in North Fork and Mariposa, are taking donations.
Beyond that, Marsh described Ewell and Phillips as a “couple of hams” and well-loved mountain girls.
“They were always positive and just funny nonstop, with jokes and a bit of a sassy side,” Marsh said. “They were so kind to everyone. They’re soft spoken, sweet, they just had that truly genuine, authentic nature about them.
“They were just getting ready to celebrate her 21st birthday,” Marsh said of Ewell, who would have turned 21 on Sunday. “And then this happens. It’s just terrible.”
Online, hundreds offered their thoughts, prayers and words of support for both girls and their families.
“Oh sweet Haley, my heart is broken from the news,” wrote Molly Malone. “I know in my heart you are going to be okay and strong as ever. You have so much living to do yet. You are one beautiful person, prayers for you to come home as soon as possible and prayers for you and your family.”
“I'm so saddened for the two girls, the friends and families are going through a nightmare,” Todd Leaf said. “Breaks my heart, praying for Haley to pull through this. Everyone needs to send positive thoughts and prayers.”
“Bless these families and all who love these girls,” Roxanna Ferguson wrote.
Parker added her thoughts online as well.
“We were supposed to be celebrating your 21st birthday,” she wrote. “We were supposed to do many things. I just don’t understand why God takes the most precious ones. I love you and I’ll miss you so much, this is just too unreal.
“RIP beautiful girl. I’ll never forget our memories together.”