WELLFORD, S.C. – Aaron Hill knew the road well, and not just because it was the route he took to high school every day. The five-mile stretch of highway was named in memory of his father, a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008.
But on his way to class Thursday morning, the 18-year-old senior was killed when a pickup truck crossed the centerline and smashed head-on into his car, authorities said.
Now the Hill family – and many others in this town of nearly 2,300 – are grieving again.
“It’s tragic. No one should have to go through this. They’ve been through so much,” said Sheriff Chuck Wright, a friend of the family. “It’s just unreal that he died on the same highway named after his father.”
The younger Hill was going to graduate in a few months and had talked about joining the military just like his father.
“Even after his father’s death, he kept a positive attitude. He kept that smile,” the sheriff said.
The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene along the section of two-lane Highway 129 known as the Sergeant Shawn F. Hill Memorial Highway. The driver of the pickup, Michael Blake White, 27, was taken to the hospital along with three students who had been in Hill’s car. Their conditions were not released.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, and no immediate charges were filed. But state officials said White did not have a valid license, having lost it nearly a year ago for too many violations. He had been issued 14 tickets since 2003, most of them for speeding.
White was driving home after working the overnight shift at an auto parts factory, according to his father.
“He really doesn’t remember it, but he was torn up when we told him what happened,” Michael White said. He said his son was badly hurt and was in the intensive care unit.
Hill’s friends from 2,200-student Byrnes High School held hands and cried at the scene of the accident and erected a memorial to “A-Rod” consisting of flowers, candles and three crosses painted green and orange, because he was a University of Miami fan. Spray-painted on the road was a heart with the words “RIP AROD.”
Hundreds of people attended the funeral three years ago of Hill’s father, a 37-year-old member of the Army National Guard, and state lawmakers renamed the highway in his memory months later.