Authorities have determined a Hephzibah High School homecoming queen who died in a car wreck two days after graduating was using her phone shortly before she lost control of the vehicle.
In an e-mail Friday, Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten said records from 18-year-old Jewel Miller's Verizon Wireless account indicate she sent or received a message at 11:47 p.m. May 26.
Five minutes and 20 seconds later, an accident call was dispatched by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office to emergency responders.
Tuten said the elapsed time is from "people hearing the accident, recognizing that it was an accident, responding to the scene, calling 911 and relaying the information to the 911 dispatcher."
Authorities suspected Miller was talking or texting during the accident after her flip phone was found open next to her body.
Miller was traveling west in the 1900 block of Hephzibah McBean Road when she lost control of her Chevy Aveo and ran off the road. Her car struck a power pole, snapping it in half and ejecting Miller from the vehicle. The car burst into flames.
Miller was partially trapped under the vehicle and suffered burns over most of her body, which caused her death, Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen said.
She was pronounced dead shortly before 1 a.m. May 27.
The news shocked fellow Hephzibah students who gathered at the school after her death. About 100 of them stood for hours in the heat consoling each other and sharing memories of the soccer and volleyball team captain.
Many described her as funny, outgoing and down-to-earth in spite of the popularity that brought her the homecoming queen title last fall.
She had planned to play volleyball on a scholarship for a small school in Wisconsin.