Alison Woodbury has watched Savannah Wetherford’s dance journey from student to teacher for nearly 20 years.
Woodbury described the 22-year-old as a loving, caring person with an unbelievable work ethic.
That drive is what makes Woodbury believe she will be able to pull through a traumatic brain injury suffered in a head-on crash.
“Savannah can be very stubborn when she wants something and will work so hard to get it, which makes her a great dancer because things may not come easy,” Woodbury said. “But she doesn’t give up, which makes me believe she’s going to come through this. She’s going to do everything she can.”
Wetherford and her passenger were seriously injured Tuesday, Aug. 23, on Old Winder Highway, according to authorities.
A Ford truck driven by Pedro Reyes, 21, of Gainesville, was heading north around 6 p.m. Tuesday on Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway near Forest Way.
Reyes was behind a GMC Sierra driven by Luis Oviedo Reyes, 26, of Gainesville. Wetherford, 22, of Talmo, was driving south on Old Winder Highway in a Chevrolet Cruze, according to a Georgia State Patrol report.
It’s unclear from the report if the two Reyes drivers are related.
Woodbury said the plan that night was for Wetherford and passenger Jaden Turk, 20, of Flowery Branch, to get dinner, deciding between Cook Out and El Sombrero.
State patrol said Pedro Reyes was distracted and following too closely behind the GMC Sierra.
The GMC Sierra gave Reyes’ truck more room to stop by partially going off of the roadway, and Pedro Reyes tried to avoid crashing by going into the southbound lane, according to the state patrol report.
Pedro Reyes’ right mirror hit the taillight of the GMC Sierra, according to the report.
After that impact, Pedro Reyes’ truck struck Wetherford’s vehicle head-on, according to the report. Wetherford and Turk suffered serious injuries, according to the report.
Luis Reyes told authorities he did not stop on scene due to a language barrier and called in to report the crash after arriving home, using his spouse as a translator.
Pedro Reyes suffered minor injuries.
Woodbury said Wetherford did not remember the crash and much of what led up to it. Her memory remains foggy and her train of thought is often jumbled.
Woodbury was not as familiar with Turk’s situation but said she had a number of surgeries from the time she was admitted.
Northeast Georgia Health System officials said Turk was in satisfactory condition Monday, Aug. 29.
Wetherford was released from the hospital on Sunday, Aug. 28, and is recuperating at home.
The progression from Friday to now “is pretty much a miracle,” Woodbury said.
“She had a brain bleed, and thank God it started to heal itself so they did not have to do surgery,” Woodbury said. “However, it’s still going to be a long road until she is healed completely.”
Woodbury said Wetherford started dancing around age 2 and came to Woodbury’s studio, ALICATS Dance Studio in Flowery Branch.
She went to Los Angeles to dance professionally until the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down. Wetherford returned to teaching for Woodbury at the dance studio.
Many students looked up to Wetherford as a role model, as evidenced by a prayer held at the dance studio on Wednesday night.
She was the strongest dancer in the studio but didn’t develop an ego, lifting up other dancers with encouragement, Woodbury said.
“People came who no longer dance but were just telling stories about how much they looked up to her and how she always was so nice to them,” Woodbury said.
State patrol said Pedro Reyes was charged with failure to maintain lane, following too closely and distracted driving.
Woodbury set up a GoFundMe page for Wetherford, which had collected $3,920 as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.