LAWRENCE - A Lawrence High School senior, scheduled to graduate last Sunday afternoon, died earlier that day in Indiana, after his pickup truck crashed head-on into a tanker truck, according to the St. Joseph County (Ind.) Police Department.
St. Joseph County (Ind.) Police Department reported the crash occurred on State Road 23 near Adams Road in Indiana, just south of the Michigan border around 4:30 a.m.
James Reeder, 18, was traveling southbound, when his pickup truck crossed the center line and struck a northbound tanker truck driven by Troy Massey, 43, of Coloma.
Reeder was pronounced dead at the scene.
The force of the impact cracked the semi-truck’s fuel tanks, police reported. The cab then burst into flames. Massey was able to flee the tanker truck. Police said he was treated at the scene for injuries, then transported to Memorial Hospital, South Bend, where he was treated for back and facial injuries.
The tanker truck was transporting 8,000 gallons of fuel, officials reported.
The crash remains under investigation.
Reeder, the senior class president, was remembered by Lawrence High School Superintendent John Overley “as a very well-liked,well-mannered young man.”
Overley said, “He had a charismatic personality and was very popular. James excelled as a wrestler and also in the classroom. He was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated with high honors. He was planning on attending Western Michigan University to pursue chemical engineering.
“It was a very difficult graduation,” Overley said. “Class members were very somber and many were moved to tears. A day that was supposed to be a celebratory time became a time of sadness over the loss of a friend, classmate, and community member.
“The class honored James by wearing a black patch on their gowns. His seat was left open with a cap and tassel on it, his National Honor Society collar was draped on the chair, and a single yellow rose (class flower) was on the seat. His name was read and received a standing ovation in wishing he was with the class.”
Graduates and teachers also remembered fellow classmate, Rebekah Burnett, who committed suicide last August.
Reeder was born Dec. 14, 1993, in Kalamazoo, the son of Fred and Donna (Ebeling) Reeder.
At LHS, Reeder was a Southwestern Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete and was a former captain of the football, track and wrestling teams.
He was currently a lifeguard at Lake of the Woods, Decatur.
Survivors include his parents, Fred and Donna Reeder of Lawrence; a brother, George W. Reeder, III, of Chicago; maternal grandparents, Jim and Dee Ebeling of Decatur; and aunts, uncles and cousins, Deb (Dave) Moorman and Sarah Overley, Doreen (Bob) Hendricks and Alex (Aaron) Wichman and Jenni Hendricks, Dina (Jon) Hestera and AJ and Anna Hestera, Jimmy (Kelli) Ebeling and Kailyn and Peyton Ebeling, George W. (Robin) Reeder II and Melissa Reeder and Adam (Kat) Reeder and John (Mary) Pallay and Deborah (Scott) Kelly.
Funeral services were held Thursday at the Newell Funeral Home, Decatur.
Memorials may be made to the James Reeder memorial.