A two-car collision on the Hwy. 441 Bypass claimed the life of a young Franklin woman on Monday evening. Officers from the Franklin Police Department, the Franklin Fire Department and Macon County EMS responded to a call to 9-1-1 dispatch which reported the accident at 7:50 p.m.
According to Lt. Steve Apel of the Franklin Police Department, nineteen-yearold Kathleen Stewart was driving a 2003 Toyota Camry when she failed to check for traffic before pulling out from Cat Creek Road across the northbound lanes of the bypass. Stewart pulled into the path a 2007 Jeep Commander driven by Alana Wilson, 25, of Highlands.
Stewart's Camry, struck by the jeep on the driver's side, flew across the median before coming to a stop near the southbound lanes of the highway. The Jeep continued traveling another 150 feet before coming to a stop. Both vehicles were destroyed.
Firefighters from the Franklin Fire Department had to use the “Jaws of Life” to extract Stewart from her vehicle. She was then flown to Mission Memorial Hospital in Asheville in MAMA, the Mountain Area Medical Airlift helicopter which took off from the scene of the accident at exactly 9 p.m.
Stewart was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital for neuro-trauma. She died at approximately 3:30 a.m.
Wilson, who suffered minor injuries to her legs, was transported to Angel Medical Center, where she was treated and released later the same evening.
In her statement to the police, Wilson said it appeared that Stewart was looking down at a cell phone the moment she pulled onto the highway. The statement and the fact that her cell phone records a text message received immediately before the accident has led investigators to suspect that Stewart may have been looking at her cell phone. Investigators say alcohol is not suspected to be a factor in the accident.
Known to friends and family as Kat, Stewart was 2009 graduate of Franklin High School and a current student at Southwestern Community College where she was studying accounting.
On Tuesday afternoon, a roadside memorial was placed at the end of Cat Creek Road near the site of the accident while a crowd of more than 50 friends and relatives gathered to pay their respects. Officers from the Franklin Police Department directed traffic during the ceremony.
“She was a beautiful girl with a wry sense of humor,” said one grieving friend. “She was working hard to turn her life around and build a future for herself.”
Funeral services will be held Saturday, May 21, at 3 p.m. in the chapel of Macon Funeral Home. The family will receive friends from 1 to 3 p.m. prior to the service. Online condolences can be made at www.maconfuneralhome.com.