The Eagle cries

Published 10:36 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

LASKER – Today we’re all part of the Eagle Nation.

Monday night, Robyne Barnes of Conway was among the four North Carolina Wesleyan College students tragically killed in a two-vehicle accident that occurred near the main entrance of the college on Wesleyan Blvd. (US 301 Business) in Rocky Mount.

Barnes was a 2015 graduate of Northeast Academy where she excelled in athletics and academics. She had celebrated her 20th birthday on March 6.

It was reported at the time of the crash that Barnes and her three classmates – 19-year-old Donesha Scott of Raleigh, 20-year-old Kandis McBride-Jones of Littleton, and 20-year-old Quedeshia Brown of Henderson – were returning to campus around 7:30 p.m. following dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Meanwhile, back in Barnes’ native Northampton County, news of the tragic deaths spread fast through social media. Among those reading about the loss of life was Wendy Odom, who coached Barnes as a member of the Northeast Academy softball team.

“Robyne was just a great girl on and off the field,” Odom said on Wednesday. “She was a leader on the field and she was a leader within our school. The young kids looked up to her…they would run up to her, even after she graduated and would come back to the school, they would just come up and love all over her. People just kind of fell in love with her immediately.

“Our players respected her in that (pitcher’s) circle, and not a lot of people have that,” Odom continued. “She was just a kid every coach would dream to coach because she would do any and every thing you would ask. She was the leader of the team; the girls looked up to her.”

Coach Odom shared how Barnes was among the first to always stick out her hand or open up her heart when one of her teammates was having a bad day.

“She had such a great sense of humor, and she knew exactly what to say to the other players when they would get down,” Odom remarked.

On suffering through a bad year herself as a senior, Odom noted, “She struggled through her sickness to stand tall for her team…most kids would just give up, but every one of those girls stood behind her, even when she was struggling (with her pitching)…they knew they could depend on her, and that says a lot about her character.”

Barnes’ former pastor at Conway Baptist Church, the now retired Rev. Willie McLawhorn, recalled her as a person that could light up a room, no matter where she went.

“She was a sweet girl who had an infectious smile; she was very tender-hearted and had a good sense of humor,” he said.

“As a person of faith, Robyne did a lot in church and she went on a couple of mission trips with our youth. She was just a good girl,” McLawhorn added.

“The word perseverance comes to mind when I recall Robyne because that’s what she epitomized. She wasn’t the best athlete (in the three sports she played at Northeast Academy), but she worked hard at it to become good. It was the same thing with her classwork and stuff like that – she worked hard at it and persevered through a lot to accomplish what she did,” McLawhorn concluded.

Back in Rocky Mount, NC Wesleyan officials canceled all classes on Tuesday and offered grief counseling for students and staff.

“The entire Wesleyan family is mourning the loss of four of our own. These young ladies had enormously bright futures that were cut far too short,” said Wesleyan President Dewey Clark in a statement. “We extend our deepest prayers and condolences to the families in this time of heartbreaking loss.”

A later statement said NC Wesleyan was planning to conduct a memorial service

The driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash was taken to a hospital in Rocky Mount. That person is not believed to be suffering from life-threatening injuries.

Wednesday afternoon, the R-C News-Herald contacted the Rocky Mount Police Department in regards to what caused the accident. A spokesperson said the investigation is continuing.

Funeral services for Barnes are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday at Conway Baptist Church. Her complete obituary can be found on page 6 of today’s edition.

(R-C News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)