Photos by Chad Hobbs| The Meade County Messenger
A section of the Bypass was shut down so that multiple emergency response agencies could work the scene of a fatality wreck this past Friday afternoon. Air Methods landed their helicopter on the highway and transported the driver of one of the vehicles to University of Louisville Hospital.
Kentucky State Police state a 16-year-old died from injuries suffered in a three-vehicle wreck along the Bypass in Brandenburg Friday afternoon. The preliminary investigation revealed a 16-year-old was operating a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado and was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto the Bypass, approximately 3:50 p.m. Friday, when it struck a 2013 Ford Focus traveling southbound which was being operated by a 17-year-old. As a result, the Focus lost control and crossed the centerline into the northbound lanes where it was struck by a 2015 Chevrolet 3500 pickup truck being operated by Christopher Stone, 48, of Brandenburg. A 16-year-old in the front passenger seat of the Ford was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Meade Co. Coroner’s Office. The Focus’ 17-year-old juvenile driver was airlifted to University of Louisville Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Stone was transported to Harrison Memorial Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Another passenger of the Focus was taken by private means to Baptist Health Hardin for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The juvenile driver and two passengers of the Chevrolet Silverado reported no injuries. A portion of the Bypass was shut down for approximately four hours in order to allow troopers to investigate the collision. The female victim who passed away from injuries sustained in the wreck was later identified as Gracie Prater who was a sophomore student at Meade County High School. Prater’s untimely and tragic death has left her family devastated and the community in mourning. “It took me six years to get her, and I went through four miscarriages, and I really feel like she was just sent to me by the grace of God and the only way I can cope with this happening is that God knew what he was doing,” said Gracie’s mother, Gena, in an interview with WHAS 11. “That’s why we named her Gracie,” added her father, Mike, in the same interview. Community members and local businesses have come together to help the family and show their love for Gracie by raising money to help with both funeral expenses and to donate to the MCHS chorus that she was a part of and loved. As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe started by Mike’s brother, Danny Prater, had raised $22,775. He wrote on the page, “Gracie, in her short time here on earth, touched the hearts of many. She will be greatly missed. The family is devastated. Her father, my brother Mike Prater, has been out of work for one year due to injuries from a motorcycle accident. We’re asking for any assistance with funeral expenses to help ease his financial burden.” This past Monday, Main Street Creamery in Brandenburg offered to donate 15 percent of its sales to the MCHS Chorus in Gracie’s honor. “When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” said co-owner Tracy Whitaker. “It’s our job to come together as a community and help out.” Gracie left a lasting impression on everyone she came in contact with. This was obvious from the many comments shared by businesses and individuals all across the community. “Sadly, we lost one from our family of vendors. She will always be remembered for her kindness and love of the market and making her candles. She was more than a vendor to me. She was a huge part of our life, and my heart is broken…We love and miss you, Gracie!” wrote Meade County Farmer’s Market Manager Mary Gavin. The MC Farmer’s Market set up a memorial table at the market last weekend in Gracie’s spot so that her customers and friends could leave a note or card for her family. She was a young entrepreneur and started Soy Wonder as part of her SAE program through the Meade County FFA Chapter that she was a member of. “Gracie was a beautiful soul who had a true love for life. She was an active FFA member who made everyone smile! She was an asset to the classroom because she saw good in everyone,” said one of her FFA advisors, Callie Hobbs. The loss of Gracie Prater is a loss that will be felt by family, friends and the community for a long time to come. Hopefully her loss will not be in vain, and instead be a catalyst for much needed changes when it comes to the traffic setup on the Bypass, especially after the addition of restaurants to a road that was already rife with a history of accidents.