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Gainesville students honor classmate killed in wreck
No charges filed in Tuesday accident
Alexis Koch, a senior at Gainesville High School, places a poinsettia at The Rock in memory of Patrick Kelley, a student who was killed Tuesday in a car wreck. - photo by Patrick Stoker

Bright red poinsettias slowly gathered Wednesday at the base of The Rock.

Friends came and went to leave flowers in honor of Patrick Kelley, a Gainesville High School senior who was heralded as a star student and caring friend.

The 18-year-old, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday, was killed that same day in a wreck on Clarks Bridge Road when the Honda Civic he was a passenger in struck a Toyota Camry head on.

Kelley was riding in the back seat of the car headed southbound when the driver lost control in a curve, crossed the center line and struck the Camry, Georgia State Patrol Spokesman Gordy Wright said.

Also injured in the wreck were Kelley's brothers, Christopher Kelley, 16, and Andrew Kelley, 15. Both were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center where they were treated and released later the same day.

The driver of the Camry, Jeremiah Linnane, 57, of Clermont was also taken to the hospital, where he was in satisfactory condition Wednesday evening.

Authorities did not reveal who was driving, but friends said the car was driven by Christopher Kelley. Investigators don't know what caused the driver to lose control, but Wright said no charges will be filed.

The wreck occurred just before noon and word spread quickly among Patrick Kelley's classmates.

McKinney Pierce was out of town at the time of the accident, but when a friend told her she said she was in disbelief.

"He was greatly loved amongst everyone," said Pierce, also a senior at the high school.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Friday at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville. Little and Davenport Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The Rock, a large boulder on Pearl Nix Parkway just down the street from Gainesville High School, served as a memorial, painted with the words "We love you Patrick."

Just below, it read "happy 18th."

"I can't believe it happened on his birthday," Gainesville senior Alexis Koch said, after putting flowers at the base of The Rock.

Friends organized the memorial effort to show their respects to Kelley, who many said had an impact on everyone.

Koch said Kelley tutored her in math. He was selected in 2010 to participate in the Governor's Honors Program in mathematics.

"He was the smartest kid you will ever meet," she said.

But his studious side was only a small aspect of his life. His compassion for others made him stand out most, friends said.

"He cared for everybody," Koch said. "Even if you were weird, he would be nice to you. He was just sweet."

Kelley was also known as a talented musician. He played the euphonium in the Gainesville High School Marching Band, the Big Red Machine. He was selected for both the 9th District Honor Band and the Georgia All State Band four years in a row.

Kelley grew up in Gainesville and attended Fair Street Elementary.

Tom Kirk teaches at the elementary school and taught there when Kelley attended.

Even as a young child, Kirk knew Kelley was destined to lead an extraordinary life.

"I remember him as a third-grader," he said. "He was really, really smart and really funny."

And Kelley never forgot his roots. He continued to visit his elementary school and read to students, Kirk said.

The tragedy served as a reminder to many.

"Hold the ones you love close," Kirk said.

"Love the ones you're with every minute," Kirk's wife, Nancy, added. 

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