Jennifer Kearns always had a smile on her face.
“She was a great girl. You’d never see her without a smile,” said Crystal Sheehan, a family friend who watched the young woman grow up.
“Everybody loved to be around her. It made people happy to be near her,” said Sheehan, her voice heavy with sadness.
Her sadness reverberated throughout the Huntley community Thursday as family and friends grappled with the 19-year-old’s death in a car accident Wednesday.
Kearns was a passenger in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee driven by Zachary C. Richardson, 22, of Union, when it went off the roadway on Marengo Road in Coral Township.
Kearns and Richardson were ejected from the vehicle. Kearns was pronounced dead at the scene. Richardson was transported to Woodstock Memorial Center. His condition was not available Thursday.
Another other passenger, John W. Sheehan, 23, of Huntley, was transported to Sherman Hospital in Elgin. He was treated for his injuries and released. A fourth passenger, Steven D. Manninen, 21, of Union refused medical treatment.
Crystal Sheehan learned her son was a victim in the accident when the hospital called Wednesday night.
“You see the (name and) number on the caller ID and your heart sinks,” Sheehan said. “I heard my son’s voice and thought, ‘Everything's fine.’ But it wasn’t.”
“I think everyone is pretty numb as it is right now. It’s unbelievable,” Sheehan said.
Kearns was active in the Huntley Pioneers 4-H Club with her family. Her aunt Julie runs the chapter and works at Huntley High School. Her brother is a senior at Huntley High School. Kearns is a 2010 graduate.
The school notified faculty about the accident and offered counseling to students who needed to talk, said Pat Olson-McGee, who heads the counseling services.
“We are seeing students today who are having struggles with the situation,” she said Thursday.
She expects the grief counseling will continue for a while as teens deal with the loss.
Faculty and staff members, like Toni Klein, Kearns’ counselor, also were saddened by the news. She said Kearns “was a very sweet person, funny and really nice to talk with. I thought she was really honestly a wonderful person.”
Kearns’ death is the third among her group of friends, Sheehan said. A friend died in an accident a year and a half ago and another committed suicide a year ago.
“It’s just too much for our little circle of friends,” Sheehan said. “I feel so bad for all our kids. It’s just too much tragedy in their young lives.”