September 6, 2007 - 9:00 pm
Even before two of their family members died in a Sunday car accident, Terry Jones and Robin Stumps knew tragedy well.
In January, they lost their 3-month-old daughter, Dayja, who choked in her sleep.
A family friend who had lived with them off and on for at least five years was fatally shot in November. Stumps had legal guardianship of the teenage suspect charged in the crime, whom Jones described as like "an adopted son."
And a family friend and a local rapper known as X1 died in July, said Jones, a producer at Dynasty Records in Las Vegas.
As many times as it happens, Jones said, you just never get used to death or absence.
"I only have one daughter left," he said. "And, the other day, she asked me if she was next."
The couple’s daughters, Tatianna Thornhill, 17, and Chennell Jones, 15, died in a Sunday morning accident that killed four Las Vegas teenagers on Interstate 15 in California.
The car in which they were traveling crossed through all traffic lanes on the highway and overturned on the interstate’s shoulder. Diaunte Flannigan, 19, Thornhill’s boyfriend and the car’s driver, and Jada Carrier, 16, Chennell Jones’ friend, also died in the accident.
Stumps was the lone survivor.
"I just don’t know what we’re going to do," Terry Jones said Wednesday. "I’m trying to make sure the girls get a proper send-off, and then after this, I’m going to take it day by day. I still have one daughter left and need to make her as comfortable as possible."
That daughter, Terri Jones, 13, was going to go to California with the group, but the car was full, and she stayed home.
"I did everything with them," she said. "They taught me how to dance."
The group was traveling home from California after attending a party hosted by a Stumps family member and visiting Flannigan’s mother.
Stumps said she was sleeping at the time of the accident near Baker. "I don’t remember nothing, just the car rolling over," she said Wednesday from the University Medical Center burn unit, where she has been since the accident. She was the only one in the car wearing a seat belt.
Terry Jones said he has no idea why the youngsters were not wearing their belts or what they were doing at the time of the crash.
"They always tell me to wear mine," he said.
Stumps had jaw reconstruction surgery Tuesday night and remains in fair condition, Terry Jones said.
As time passes and the events of Labor Day weekend become more real in his mind, Terry Jones is not sure how he and his wife will cope.
"It keeps hitting me, like every 15 seconds," he said. "They were real good kids."
Death came at a time for new beginnings for both girls, he said. Both recently had transferred from Sierra Vista High School to Legacy High School after the family moved to North Las Vegas.
Chennell Jones turned 15 two days before she was killed. She had just begun working her first job, at Walgreens.
She was really creative, her father said. She liked combining her computer skills with her musical interests and promoted bands on the My Space Internet site.
"She was like a little genius," he said.
Life was starting to change for Thornhill, said Terry Jones, her stepfather. She had just started a new job at Foot Locker, he said.
"I was really proud of her," he said. "She was starting to come out of her childhood and make real grown-up decisions. We were just starting to give her more freedom."
Family was a high priority in Thornhill’s life, said Bobby Thornhill, an uncle who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He said she constantly would travel between Las Vegas and Ohio to visit her biological father. There, she would take her grandmother to church.
"She was crazy about family. Her brothers and sisters; that was very important to her," he said.
She liked shopping, fashion and music. And she had just moved in with Flannigan. The two were getting ready to start their lives together, said the young man’s father, Darryl Flannigan.
Diaunte Flannigan was funny, loud and crazy, said Karra Brown, 16, who knew him through boxing at local gyms.
"Everybody knew that when Diaunte was in the room, it was going to be a fun time," Brown said.
Darryl Flannigan echoed her remarks. "He had a great personality. When you talked to him, he had a way of making your day better. He wasn’t afraid to be the person he was. He understood that you could be yourself and be who God wants you to be and still have fun and be respected. I’m very proud to be his father."
Diaunte Flannigan had attended Mojave High School.
Carrier was described by friends as being loud and funny. She attended Sierra Vista High School.
"She was a real good person, real nice, always fun to be around," said her friend of three years, Brandon Nabity, 16. He said that Carrier went out of her way to make him feel welcome.MEMORIAL HELD A candlelight memorial service was held Wednesday night at Sierra Vista High School for the four Las Vegas teenagers killed in a Sunday morning accident on Interstate 15 in California, said Terry Jones, parent of two of the victims. Jones is planning a joint burial service at Palm Northwest Mortuary & Cemetery at 6701 N. Jones Blvd. REVIEW-JOURNAL