Bismarck-Henning students mourn classmate's death
BISMARCK – When Brittaney Allen walked into a room, you could not help but notice her, friends and teachers said Tuesday.
It wasn't only because the 16-year-old Henning girl was tall, attractive and loud at times.
"She was just a beautiful person inside and out," said 15-year-old Ellenann Fullen of Bismarck. "She liked everyone, and she said hi to everyone. It didn't matter who they were."
"She was sparkly," added Bill Madden, a social studies teacher at Bismarck-Henning High School where Miss Allen was a sophomore. "She was always a positive person, and she kind of bounced around and enjoyed interacting with kids."
Miss Allen died at 8:57 p.m. Monday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said she died from a traumatic head injury as a result of a motor vehicle crash.
According to a Vermilion County sheriff's report, Miss Allen was driving north on Henning Road past County Road 1300 East on the afternoon of Feb. 5, when the wheel of her Pontiac Sunfire slipped off the road. She overcorrected, flipped her car several times and was thrown from the car.
Miss Allen and her passenger – Andrew Bainbridge, 17, of Rossville – were taken to Hoopeston Community Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Carle.
When students return to school, social workers will be on hand to offer grief counseling, said Rusty Campbell, the high school's dean of students.
"We're a pretty small school," said Campbell, who also was Miss Allen's fifth-grade teacher. "Everybody knows who everybody is. It will be really hard on all of her close friends, but I think it will affect every student at that school."
Friends said Miss Allen was known for her sense of humor. She also was known for her strong personality and outspokenness.
"She didn't take anything from anybody," Fullen said, adding she admired that. "And if anyone was bothering me or one of her friends, she'd stick up for you."
"She'd get in trouble for fighting sometimes," added 15-year-old Jessica Corn of Bismarck. "But she was really a softy. She really cared about her friends."
Fifteen-year-old Kacie Henry of Bismarck agreed. When her grandfather was ill in the hospital last year, Miss Allen comforted her.
"Her grandmother died when she was in the second grade, so she knew what I was going through," Henry said, adding that her grandfather pulled through. "She just had that soft side, and she knew how to make you feel better."
Last year, Miss Allen joined the girls' track team, running hurdles, coach Susan Kentner said.
"It was good to see her come and find a little niche there," she said.
Kentner said Miss Allen ran the 100 high hurdles and 300 low hurdles. She had some difficulty at first, but steadily improved.
"She kept doing it over and over and over again ... and she scored some points for us. She stuck with it. It makes me think she fought as hard as she possibly could fight" for her life, Kentner said.
On the day of the accident, school was closed because of the frigid temperatures. That afternoon, Miss Allen was to report to her first day of work in the dietary division at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville, said 16-year-old Alex Anderson of Henning.
"She was all excited about it because it was her first job," Anderson said, adding her friend wanted to be an X-ray technician when she grew up. She said she was taking Bainbridge home when the wreck occurred.
Friends could not visit Miss Allen in the hospital's surgical intensive care unit because her injuries were too severe. So the girl's aunt asked them to write her letters and promised to read them to her.
"I'll always be there for you," wrote Jessica Corn, 15 of Bismarck.
"The world won't be the same without a Brittaney Allen," Fullen wrote. "You're a strong person. I know you can make it through this."
Friends were hopeful Miss Allen would improve, and for a while, it seemed as though she would. There were good signs.
She moved her eyes back and forth. She moved her hand.
But then news came she'd taken a turn for the worse. Then, too quickly, she was gone.
"It still doesn't seem right," Anderson said softly.