Four Texas college students who were killed when their bus was hit by a semi-truck on the way back from a softball game in Oklahoma on Friday night were described as talented athletes and devoted friends by those who knew them.
North Central Texas College students Meagan Richardson, 19; Brooke Deckard, 20; Katelynn Woodlee, 18; and Jaiden Pelton, 20 were identified by Oklahoma Highway Patrol as the four victims of the crash on I-35 near the town of Ardmore. Eleven other members of the softball team — comprised of freshmen and sophomores — were also on the bus, driven by their coach, Van Hedrick, 48.
“This is the most traumatic event that NCTC has had in its 90 years of history," said North Central Texas College President Brent Wallace, who described the school as a close-knit community. Fellow students and school officials expressed their devastation on social media throughout the day, and a candlelight vigil was planned for Sunday night on the NCTC campus.
"Coach T and Coach Hedrick love you girls and you will be forever in our hearts," said a post on the NCTC softball Facebook page. "We lost 4 beautiful amazing girls tonight that truly blessed me day in and day out," the post said.
Meagan Richardson, 19, was dedicated to her sport, her former high school teammate Lara Tasara, 18, told NBC News. Tasara said Richardson was "always ready to play." Richardson was a pitcher at Wylie High School, in Texas, and then went on to pitch in college, according to the team's roster. Tasara said Richardson had played softball since she was a little girl. "Her goal was to end up playing college ball," Tasara said. "And she did.”
Off the field, Richardson was quiet, but playful with those she was close to, Tasara said. “She had a very big heart,” Tasara said, adding, "Everybody liked Meagan.”
"She will not be forgotten by anyone who was fortunate enough to know her," Wylie High School spokesperson Ian M. Halperin said. "Meagan was a dedicated teammate and a wonderful sister and daughter with her future in front of her."
Brooke Deckard, 20, "always had something positive to say about everyone," a friend, Brenna Kinser wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. Kinser said the longtime buddies grew up playing t-ball together. "I was the one with the glove on my head in the outfield, you were the one giving everyone the preview of the amazing softball player you'd turn out to be," Kinser wrote.
A service in honor of Deckard will be held at First Baptist Church in Blue Ridge on Sunday evening, the church said in a Tweet, asking for prayers for the Deckard family.
Jaiden Pelton, 20, was a 2013 graduate of Sam Rayburn High School in Ivanhoe, Texas, where she was a standout catcher for one of the best softball teams in the state. She was part of a select group on the team that pledged to continue playing the game in college.
“It helps when you say you are from Sam Rayburn and coaches have heard of you because of the success we’ve had,” she told the Herald Democrat newspaper in 2013.
On Twitter, Pelton listed family and friends, music and her boyfriend among her joys in life. She was also proud of the North Central Texas College softball team’s accomplishments, and would acknowledge her fellow teammates’ birthdays and post pictures of themselves gearing up on game days.
Katelynn Woodlee's favorite quote was: "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game," according to an athletic profile, used for athletic recruiting purposes. "Katelynn is a natural born athlete who works very hard," wrote a coach endorsing her on the page.
Woodlee, 18, listed "The Blind Side" as her favorite movie on the page, and the Bible as her favorite book. The page said she enjoyed "softball, basketball, riding atv's, spending time with friends."
"She had one of the absolute best personalities that you could ever imagine," one of those friends, Billy Pilkinton, 19, told NBC News. The two met through mutual friends, and Pilkinton said "every time she’s around, you couldn’t stop smiling. She just had that effect on people." Woodlee was an infielder, according to the NCTC team roster, but Pilkinton said, "she could do it all."
"She’s flawless," Pilkinton said, "inside and out."
NBC News' Erik Ortiz contributed to this report.