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Conifer High principal: ‘This is our worst nightmare’

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School’s students try to cope in wake of accident that killed two classmates

By Barbara Ford

Still reeling from the accident Tuesday night that killed two Conifer High School juniors, students at the school began their first day back from winter break on Wednesday with a news conference by the principal.

Principal Michael Musick talked about the students he knew and lost in a horrific crash, and how he intends to help the students affected by the deaths of their classmates.

“This is our worst nightmare for any principal or any parent,” Musick said.

The State Patrol said Kenneth “Kenny” Barnett, 16, of Evergreen, was driving a 1999 Honda Civic, and both he and passenger Mara Parslow, 16, of Morrison, died in the crash on U.S. 285 near Pine Junction on Tuesday night. Also in the car was Barnett’s brother, Austin, who was injured and taken to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver.

Barnett’s vehicle crossed the median of the highway and collided with a Buick SUV driven by Kylee Taylor, 20, of Bailey, then hit a Dodge pickup driven by Thomas Dimler, 42, of Pine. Taylor was uninjured, and Dimler received minor injuries.

Musick said U.S. 285 is a “troubled road” and always has been. He said it’s a difficult highway for skilled drivers, let alone a new driver.

According to Musick, students discussed the accident Wednesday in their morning homeroom classes, and he credited the school’s caring teachers for their efforts to help students cope.

Musick, principal at the high school of 1,003 students, said, “It’s a tough day for Conifer High School, hard for community, hard for staff and the students.”

Jefferson County Schools has provided crisis teams and additional counselors to help students and staff deal with the loss.

Musick extended condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the families of the students.

The Conifer community already has reached out and offered to help, and Musick says he’ll need it for his school and its students.

“We’re here to take care of kids,” Musick said.