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Gestures of support help Conifer High begin healing

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Car crash on U.S. 285 killed two students

By Barbara Ford

The community and its schools continue to reach out to Conifer High School in the wake of last week’s auto accident that killed two students.

On Friday, six local schools, with the help of the Conifer Safeway, sent the staff and teachers at Conifer High cards, fruit baskets and yogurt, sub sandwiches, chips, cookies and a powerful, intangible gesture of support.

Students and staff at Conifer High are still coming to terms with last week’s fatal accident on U.S. 285. Kenneth Paul Barnett, 16, and Mara Parslow, 16, were killed in the three-car crash on Jan. 5. Kenneth’s brother, Austin, was injured.

Early Friday morning, principals from Elk Creek Elementary, West Jefferson Elementary, Marshdale Elementary, West Jefferson Middle, Evergreen High School and Pomona High School in Arvada all sent the items to Conifer High.

Liz Engelkes, the principal’s secretary at Elk Creek Elementary, said the decision to send lunch to the high school on Friday was a quick and easy one.

“We wanted to show support to them,” Engelkes said.

The Conifer Safeway found out what the local schools were doing, got involved and donated food to show support for their neighbors. The food was set up in the lounge for staff and teachers.

Just days before, principal Michael Musick held a news conference at the school to talk about the accident.

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

Musick said U.S. 285 is a “troubled road” and always has been.

Musick remembered Mara’s friendliness and how she would come by his office just to say hi.

Kenny attended both Evergreen and Conifer high schools, and attended classes at Warren Technical School in Lakewood, where he learned how to customize cars.

Musick also talked about the close relationship the teens shared.

According to Musick, Conifer, a little town in a big school district, has reached out and offered to help, and he admits he’ll need the help for his school and its students.

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

A visitation for Kenneth Paul Barnett was held Jan. 11, and a celebration of his life was held Jan. 12 at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church in Conifer. Burial was at Evergreen Memorial Park.

A celebration-of-life service for Mara was held on Jan. 10 at The Barn at Evergreen Memorial Park.

The accident occurred about 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5. According to the State Patrol, Kenny was driving a gray 1995 Honda Civic and was northbound on U.S. 285 just south of Pine Junction when the vehicle veered into the southbound lanes, clipped a Buick Rainier SUV, then continued into oncoming traffic, hitting a Dodge Ram pickup truck broadside.

Kenny’s brother, Austin Barnett, 18, was an unrestrained passenger in the back seat. He was injured and flown to St. Anthony Hospital in Denver. Austin was released later last week.

The driver of the Buick Rainier was identified as Kylee J. Taylor, 20, of Bailey, who was not injured, and the driver of the pickup was Thomas R. Dimler, 42, of Pine, who suffered minor injuries and was treated at Swedish Medical Center and released.