Natchez native killed in in Petal automobile crash

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2008

PETAL — Kaitlyn Bryant was only a month away from graduation at Pearl River Community College. Then she planned to pursue an elementary education degree at Southern Miss.

But a tragic weekend accident cut short the 20-year-old Sumrall resident’s ambitions.

Bryant was born in Natchez and lived there until 1994 when her family moved to Hattiesburg.

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Bryant’s vehicle collided head-on early Sunday with a vehicle driven by Shelby Brown, 20, of Madison County. Brown was driving westbound in the eastbound lane of Evelyn Gandy Parkway just east of the Leeville Road intersection.

Petal police arrived on the scene at 2:48 a.m., according to Petal Chief Lee Shelbourn.

The accident claimed Bryant’s life and Brown was sent to Forrest General Hospital for surgery, Shelbourn said.

Shelbourn said no charges have been filed but blood samples were sent to Jackson to determine if alcohol or drugs were involved.

He did not know when the results would be available.

Shelbourn said the wreck happened on a flat, open portion of the parkway.

The accident marks the second death in a week on the parkway. On April 1, an accident at the Monroe Road intersection in the middle left one person dead.

Shelbourn said police constantly patrol the parkway. He said the four-lane road is very wide open and prone to people speeding even though the speed limit is 65 miles per hour.

“I don’t understand whether it’s just because it’s just so open, but it’s a great highway and relatively new. Whether they feel a false sense of security or I don’t know what it is,” Shelbourn said.

“This was late at night or early the next morning, so there wouldn’t have been that much traffic.”

Mississippi Highway Patrol is helping with the investigation, Shelbourn said.

“We’re just in disbelief of the things that can happen,” Bryant’s brother, Kael, said Monday. “She’s definitely in a better place, but we’ve been getting calls and support from local churches and groups she was involved in. It’s been a great thing to see.”

Sumrall High Principal Larry Easterling recalled Bryant as a well-rounded student.

“She was a very, very good student, very active and participated in sports teams,” Easterling said. “She was a leader in our school and was just outstanding.”

Kaitlyn’s mother, Joree Bryant, is the librarian at Sumrall High School and her father, Johnny, often helped out organizing bus routes, according to Easterling.

Easterling said Kaitlyn was a summer worker in the school office for three years. He described her as responsible and professional.

Kaitlyn was also a waitress at O’Charley’s restaurant in Hattiesburg. Manager Patti Roebuck said the news of her death hit her co-workers hard.

“For some of these servers this is probably the first time they’ve lost someone their age, so I think that they have gone from loud and boisterous to kind of quiet,” Roebuck said.

KayCe Cavan, who had worked with Kaitlyn since January, said they became close friends.

“She was the girl that it didn’t matter what she was doing or what needed to be done, she would give you the shirt off her back,” Cavan said. “She was there to talk with and cry with. I’ve never heard her say a mean thing about anybody. She was just a great person.”

She also said the workplace doesn’t seem the same without Kaitlyn.

“All of us at work just miss her, and we just can’t believe it, we just kept expecting her to come in to work and walk through the door,” Cavan said.

Visitation is 5-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home in Sumrall. Services are 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Burial will be in Aultman Cemetery.