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Friends, county mourn students killed in crash

Karl Anschutz and Laura Anschutz

Karl Anschutz and Laura Anschutz

CONYERS -- A roadside memorial has gone up in Rockdale County in remembrance of two students killed Thursday in a crash on McDaniel Mill Road.

Since Thursday evening, friends and other residents from around Rockdale County have come to the site where a Heritage High School senior and his 13-year-old sister were killed in a crash after he lost control of his car and collided with a pickup truck while driving her to school.

Karl Michael Anschutz, 18, was driving his sister Laura to Davis Middle School in his 1992 BMW -- a present from their grandfather after Karl earned his Eagle Scout award in 2008. Karl's Eagle project involved placing signs at intersections of horse and bike trail lanes at the Georgia International Horse Park.

"The deal was that he was responsible for taking his sister to school," said Carl Wust, a family friend and leader of Boy Scout Troop 410, sponsored by St. Pius Catholic Church in Conyers, where Karl was active since 1999. "The whole family is very close ... even the extended family in Rockdale. He got along exceptionally well with his sister."

Since hearing the news of their deaths, residents in Rockdale County and even around the state have been mourning their loss and showing support for their family. Karl and Laura are the only children of John and Terri Anschutz, graduates of Newton County High School.

A Facebook group, R.I.P Laura and Karl Anschutz, was created Thursday and within four hours had 600 supporters. By Friday morning, more than 1,000 had joined the group with dozens more joining throughout the day and many others showing support for the family by writing them notes on the page.

"Although I do not personally know the (Anschutz) family, my daughter played in the Davis band with Laura," one contributor wrote. "Words do not come easy in such a tragic situation. Our prayers go out in a big way to Laura and Karl's family. (May) God be with you."

Although counselors and youth pastors met with students at the siblings' schools Friday, students still had a difficult time dealing with the loss of their classmates.

"Laura was a great friend to us all," wrote one of her friends on the Facebook group. "She was the happiest girl in all of Davis Middle. I'm very sorry. ... She was a great friend. And I miss her so much. (A lot of) people do."

"Laura, you were so nice and always laughing," wrote another one of her friends on the site. "You were an amazing person. You will be missed. God just needed you with him."

The news of Karl's death is also difficult to accept for members of the Heritage High School Band, where Karl played trumpet for four years. The band recently went on a trip in February and performed at the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival last week.

"If there was ever any doubt about how his peers saw him, (Thursday) answered that," said HHS Band Director Scott Smith. "There were students in the band room all day long grieving and comforting each other. ... We call the band a family. Our students are very close, and it is hitting everyone hard that we lost a member of our family."

Students at Davis Middle School also are having a difficult time dealing with the news of Laura's death. Her language arts classmates wore her favorite colors, black and purple, on Friday and her fellow bandmates wore their uniforms and canceled a band trip to show support for the family.

"As a teacher, this is something you never prepare yourself for," said Darvin K. McRoy, director of bands at Davis Middle School, where Laura played alto saxophone. "Laura was an amazing spirit in the band, and we are going to have to make sure that spirit stays with us. Like all families, the DMS Band is pulling together to get through this. We lost a very dear family member, and like all families, we will get through this."

Laura has had perfect attendance at school for the past seven years, which made it especially hard on her classmates and teachers Thursday and Friday.

"Because she was at school every day, you just take for granted that she will be here today and tomorrow," McRoy said. "I will really miss her. We will miss her. I am just glad that I had some time to spend with one of God's truly special people."

The outpouring of support does not come as a surprise.

"It seems they were very loyal to their friends and could be counted on when you needed them," said Wust, speaking on behalf of the family.

Karl, an Advanced Placement scholar at Heritage, had planned to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall to study mechanical engineering. Laura, also an honor student, enjoyed drama class and won the county science fair the past three years.

Horis A. Ward Funeral Homes is in charge of funeral services, which will be held Sunday at Heritage Hills Baptist Church, located at 2987 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., near Smyrna Road. The family will receive visitors at 2 p.m., a memorial service will begin at 3 p.m., and a reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that charitable contributions in honor of the two be made to the Shepherd Center Foundation for the benefit of the Karl Michael and Laura Ann Anschutz Assistive Technology Fund. They can be mailed to Dean Melcher, Shepherd Center Hospital, 2020 Peachtree Road N.W., Atlanta, GA 30309 or made via the Web at www.shepherd.org.

The family also encourages everyone to sign up to be organ donors, as Karl and Laura both were organ donors and will have their organs donated through Lifeline.

"The number of lives you will help save is amazing," Wust said.