Memorial for 2 killed in Oak Ridge crash continues to grow

Piedmont Triad News

OAK RIDGE, N.C. (WGHP) — A growing memorial is underway in Oak Ridge remembering the lives lost in a drunk driving accident.

People are honoring the lives of 19-year-olds Zach Williamson and Jeff Jones, who died along Williard Road on Friday.

The community is choosing to focus on the positive impacts both Williamson and Jones leave behind.

“Nobody thought this would happen, especially to people like Zach and Jeff. Nobody thinks this would happen. One day they’re here, the next day they’re not,” said Matthew O’Hal, who went to school with the crash victims.

As the memorial on N.C. 150 and Williard Road in Oak Ridge continues to grow, people who grew up with the four teens involved in Friday’s crash are coming to the crash site to reflect.

“It had me thinking like, things could change in a heartbeat,” O’Hal said.

He’s choosing to remember his old friend Williamson’s smile and the way he used to make people laugh.

For community members who stopped to look at the memorial, people who saw it said its mere existence is powerful.

“At least they know the people in the community care,” Tony Owens said.

Owens is a parent and said this tragedy is one that resonated with his 21-year-old stepson, who was delivering pizzas the night of the crash and saw the graphic scene.

“What he saw kind of bothered him,” Owens said.

As more than 100 people showed up to Monday’s vigil, one message remains clear.

“Promise me that you will never drink and drive. You will not get in the car with anybody that has been drinking and driving,” Jones’ sister told the crowd.

The avoidable tragedy created a void in a father’s heart.

“Jeff was an all-American patriot. He loved this country and just [was] a super, super kid. Never met a stranger. Just a loving kid,” said Bob Jones, Jeff’s dad.

Tavis Williamson is one of two survivors in that crash. Though he couldn’t find words to say to the crowd, his presence was felt as he was met by embrace Monday.

The driver, Jacob Stevens, 18, now faces two counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count felony inflicting serious bodily injury.

Stevens’ secured bond was set for $150,000.

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