Victims of A&M bonfire tragedy remembered
Friday, November 19th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
Editor's Note: For continuing updates from College Station, click on http://theeagle.com
Courtesy of Belo Interactive.
DALLAS (AP) -- Chad Powell was a natural leader -- an Eagle Scout and valedictorian of his high school. The computer engineering major at Texas A&M University was typical of the 11 people who died when a 40-foot pyramid of logs for a football bonfire collapsed early Thursday.
The victims included honor students, members of the Corps of Cadets, and others who were respected on campus. Powell "was a great kid to know, and he had a great sense of humor, and also knew that he was a leader and assumed those responsibilities," said his former principal at Keller High School, Randy Baker.
Powell was an avid rock-climber, so it was no surprise he was helping as a freshman coordinator of the bonfire project, said
Julie Zwahr, a family friend. "He would never ask anyone to climb up there if he wasn't
willing to do it himself," she said.
In high school, Powell was president of the National Honor Society, a National Merit Scholar and a member of the academic
decathlon team that finished third in the state last year. The 19-year-old hoped one day to open a computer store and design software. "He died giving himself as he had lived," Powell's parents, Greg and Jill, said in a brief statement.
Other victims included:
Michael Ebanks, a 1999 graduate of Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, had a passion for two things: Aggies and airplanes. The 19-year-old earned his private pilot's license last year and took honors courses in high school so he could attend Texas A&M,
where he was a major in aerospace studies.
Ebanks also won a first-place award during his senior year in a national competition of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, or DECA. High school principal Lee Alvoid said Ebanks had a great sense of humor. "He was always with a group of friends, laughing and
smiling. He had a great smile."
Ms. Alvoid said the death was particularly tragic for Ebanks' family, which lost an older son, a graduate of Texas A&M, in a
traffic accident several years ago.
Jamie Hand, a freshman environmental design major from Henderson, was known for her athletic, academic and artistic talents. She was a cheerleader in high school, earning All-America and all-star honors. She served on the school's student council and
yearbook staff and was a member of the National Honor Society.
"She did everything she did with everything she had. She had a zest for life," said Jo Velvin, superintendent of the Henderson
public schools. The 19-year-old also sang at church with her sisters and was an
Hand's father told the Henderson Daily News that his daughter was a proud Aggie. "She loved what she was doing," Larry Hand said. "She loved being down there at school."
Jeremy Frampton, 22, loved sports, hunting and the Aggie bonfire tradition. The Turlock, Calif., native graduated in the top 20 percent of
his high school class. Teachers remember him as a positive-minded student driven to succeed. One friend said he was "the type of guy that moms really liked." Frampton had participated in the bonfire tradition for the past
five years, family members say. This year, the senior psychology major was a "brown pot" -- one of the handful of supervisors charged with overseeing the construction of the bonfire.
"If Jeremy were standing here, he would tell you (the) bonfire should continue," said his older brother, Scott Frampton, also an A&M alumnus. "He would say, 'Build it higher, make it burn longer.' That's just how he felt about it."
Jerry Self, 20, a sophomore engineering technology major from Arlington, was remembered for his school spirit. He was on the Arlington Lamar High School student council and the Spanish club, on the track team and the varsity football team. An offensive lineman who didn't always get much playing time, Self was remembered by coaches and teachers as one who could be
counted on. "You always ask, 'Why do things like this happen to a good kid like Jerry?' But those are the kids that always get in and get
involved," said a former teacher, Gayle Nelson.
Self planned to become an electrical engineer after completing a stint with the Air Force.
Bryan Allan McClain, 19, grew up in northeast San Antonio and attended Madison High School, where he was a swim team member for four years and captain of the team his senior year. McClain was remembered by neighbors and school officials as a
respectful, clean-cut young man and a good student. He graduated from Madison in 1998.
At Texas A&M University his major was agriculture, but friends said he was interested in a career as an entomologist. At the tradition-rich university, McClain realized his dream of
joining the Corps of Cadets, a military-style program at A&M. Agronomy professor Dudley Smith said McClain's quiet and unassuming manner made him stand out.
"He symbolized the dedication of a Corps member," Smith said. "He was always in uniform. He was always very neat. 'Yes, sir. No,
sir.' All of that."
Christopher Lee Heard, 19, a freshman and pre-engineering major from Houston, dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL commando like his
father. His uncle, Lindy Heard, said his nephew was named outstanding senior military cadet upon his 1999 graduation from Marine Military Academy, a private military prep school in Harlingen. He was attending A&M on a full scholarship.
"He was an all-around good person," said retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. James Hager, who supervised Heard at MMA. "He was hard but fair, and he never lost sight of how he started out as a private and had to work his way up, so he could identify with the first-year cadets. "And he had a hell of a sense of humor."
Miranda Adams, 19, a sophomore biomedical sciences major from Santa Fe, was studying to be a pediatrician. At Santa Fe High School, she was a member of the National Honor Society, student council and band, principal Gary Causey said. "She was a good citizen, the kind of kid that you wish all your student body was made up of," he said.
Miss Adams was similarly active at A&M, serving as a co-chair of the group planning the bonfire. "She was very excited about it," said Debbie Wentzel, a teaching assistant at Santa Fe Intermediate School who works with
Miss Adam's mother, Carolyn. "Her family hadn't made any Thanksgiving plans definite because of the bonfire and Miranda being involved in it. It was her big thing."
Nathan Scott West was a competitive swimmer who planned on a career in oceanography. The 19-year-old already had a head start among his peers as a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. West, a sophomore from the Houston suburb of Bellaire, scored
more than 1,400 on the SAT and graduated 18th in a class of 387 seniors at Westbury High School.
"He was academically competent beyond belief," said Michael Moore, a Westbury science teacher. West moved to the A&M Corps of Cadets from the Boy Scouts, with
whom he once helped refurbish the inner-city cemetery where Civil War hero Dick Dowling is buried.
Lucas Kimmel was following a family tradition at Texas A&M, the school both his father and brother attended. Kimmel, who turned 19 on Sunday, graduated from Tuloso-Midway
High School in Corpus Christi in May. The freshman biomedical science major was attending the school on several scholarships,
including an ROTC award. He hoped to become a veterinarian. He also was a member of the university's Corps of Cadets.
In high school, he ran track and was on the swim team. He was a member of 4-H, the National Honor Society, and was an Eagle Scout. Friends told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that the smart, outgoing athlete liked to make people laugh. "He was just our team clown, always so funny and so full of
life," said Dee Hargis, Kimmel's swim coach and friend. "There was never a dull moment with him around. We would go to a restaurant and he would put a spoon on his nose and two spoons on his ears. He always wanted to make people laugh."
Christopher Breen, 25, graduated from A&M in 1997 with a degree in agricultural development. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets in 1992-96, and was the son of University of Texas civil engineering professor John Breen.
In his last year at A&M, he was the senior coordinator for the bonfire as a brown pot. He lived in Austin and was visiting College
Station to work on the bonfire when the accident happened. Friends said he was passionate about the annual tradition. "You could tell during the fall semester that the bonfire was his life," said former classmate Manda Hays. "He took care of things, kept the guys in order."