[UPDATED] Cairo, GA --- 9/7/2011 -- 5:20pm ---
Faculty and students at Cairo High School are remembering 16-year-old Brandon Hartley, who was killed tragically in a single-car crash.
Those who knew Hartley are using words like 'shock' and 'disbelief' to describe their feelings after finding out he'd died in an accident in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011 on Elkins Road in Grady County.
Hartley's JV Baseball Coach Chris Wheaton says he was 'floored' to hear about his player's death.
Wheaton says, "[I'm] just extremely shocked because you never really want to hear of someone you knew really close, especially at an age of his, to pass away."
Hartley's friend Tayla Nix says, "I didn't want to believe it at first because he was like my best friend, and it just shocked -- it slammed through me. It scared me to death."
Classmates like Nix are remembering the kind of person Hartley was.
They say he leaves behind a space in their hearts that won't be filled easily.
Rachel Leggett says Hartley was one of her best friends.
Of Hartley she says, "He had gorgeous blue eyes. He was always smiling. He knew how to make everybody laugh."
Nix says, "He just made everybody's day a lot better, and he was there for anybody that needed him."
Looking through the Cairo High School yearbook, the 16-year-old appears in several group photos, including those for Interact and the Junior Varsity baseball team.
CHS Principal Dave McCurry says that makes sense because Hartley was a 'model student' and very involved.
Hartley's friends say they will always keep fond memories of his laughter and smiling face in their minds.
[UPDATE] 9/5/2011 -- 6pm --
A fatal crash in Grady County on Sunday, September 4th, is adding a somber tone to Labor Day festivities. WCTV has an eyewitness account of what killed a 16-year-old Cairo High School student from neighbors nearby.
The pungent smell of smoke and a blackened tree are just two reminders that remain from a tragic accident that claimed the life of a 16-year-old Cairo High School student.
Glass and incinerated car parts scatter the ground where 16-year-old CHS junior Brandon Hartley lost his life.
The Grady County Sheriff's Office says Hartley was driving down Elkins Road on his way home around three o'clock in the morning on Sunday, September 4th when he lost control of his car and hit a large tree.
Emily Harvey lives across the street from the accident scene. She's also a Senior at Cairo High. She says the family dogs woke her and her mother moments after the crash happened.
Harvey explains, "Mom ran to the road and she just started screaming, 'It's a car, it's a car!' so I was like, 'Oh gosh, you need to get some help out here, a car's engulfed in flames.'"
Harvey says it was 'surreal' to see something so horrific up close.
She says, "Life can just be taken so easily, I don't know, I was just really shocked and ... I'm just in disbelief, I guess."
WCTV reached out to Hartley's family about their loss through Facebook, but they haven't responded to a message we sent.
The 16-year-old's Facebook account has been deleted since the accident, but a status update posted earlier asked everyone to keep him in their prayers.
A group has also been created online called "In Loving Memory of Brandon Hartley."
Stay tuned to WCTV for more on how the community is remembering the 16-year-old.
[UPDATE] 9/5/2011 -- 2:45pm --
Witnesses who live across from the accident scene say their dogs started barking around 3 o'clock Sunday (9/4) morning.
Elkins Road resident and Cairo High student Emily Harvey says after a few minutes of their barking, she realized something was wrong.
Harvey says she and her mother first thought bushes at the far corner of the yard were on fire, but they soon realized the inferno was raging across the street.
Harvey says the flames were so high she didn't know there was a car underneath when she called 911.
Georgia State Patrol and Grady County deputies arrived on scene in under 30 minutes.
Tune in the Eyewitness News at 6 to hear more from Harvey about the loss of her fellow Syrupmaker, Brandon Hartley.
[UPDATE] 9/5/2011 -- Noon --
A tragic car crash early Sunday morning (9/4) ended the life of a Cairo High School student.
Eyewitness News spoke with Grady County Sheriff Harry Young this morning.
Young confirmed 16-year-old Brandon Hartley was killed around 4am on September 4th. He says the teen hit a tree while driving around a corner on Elkins Road in Grady County, and the car burst into flames.
Young says the Cairo High School junior was driving his parents' Dodge Charger and was hurrying home when the accident happened.
Though he didn't know the teen personally, Young says the loss of promising life is tragic.
Eyewitness News also spoke with Cairo High School's Principal Dave McCurry earlier this morning (9/5) about the crash. McCurry says, "I am deeply saddened to hear about this. My heart goes out to his family. Brandon was a wonderful young man and a model student. The Hartley family is in our prayers."
Troopers who worked the scene say slick roads may have had something to do with the accident. We don't have any word yet on whether they believe alcohol was involved or not.
Grady County, GA -- 9/5/2011 -- 8:50AM --
The Grady County Sheriff's Office confirms 16-year-old Brandon Hartley died after the Dodge Charger he was driving hit a tree and burst into flames early Sunday morning (9/4).
The accident happened while Hartley was going around a curve on Elkins Road. GSCO says slick roads may have played a role in the crash.
Sheriff Harry Young says the car belonged to the teen's parents, and he was driving it with their permission. Young says the Cairo High School Junior was trying to hurry home.
Stay tuned to WCTV as we find out more details about this incident.