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Riverside High student dies in wreck

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the second time in two months, a Riverside High School student has been killed in a vehicle crash.

Colin Qualls, 16, of Glasgow, died shortly after midnight Friday on Hughes Creek Road. Four other teenagers in the car, some of whom also are Riverside students, were hospitalized, according to the West Virginia State Police.

Alcohol played a role in the crash, according to State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous.

The car went through a fence, took out a gas line and struck concrete steps at 5211 Hughes Creek Road. Arthur and Dianna Tucker, who live there, found Qualls' body in a neighbor's yard.

Dustin Burkhardt, 18, of London, was driving the car, Baylous said. No criminal charges had been filed as of Friday evening.

On Friday, Burkhardt posted on his Facebook page, "It should've been me. Truly will never be able to live with myself."

In May, another Riverside student, Patrick Petry, 16, died in a dirt-bike crash.

"My school comes together as a big family when things like this happen," said Gracie Keenan, an upcoming sophomore at Riverside High.

Riverside High Principal Valerie Harper could not be reached Friday.

Keenan, who said she was Qualls' longtime friend, called him "the sweetest, funniest person I had ever met.

"He helped all of his friends whenever they had problems and was always there for me when I needed him," she said.

Qualls' aunt, Holly Mullins of Marmet, said he was "a special boy" and one of a kind.

"He always put a big smile on for anyone," she said. "We will never forget him. He was very special to our family."

Victoria Hudnall, an upcoming junior, said Qualls was always happy and that the loss will be hard on students, once they return to school on Aug. 9.

"This is the second person the Class of '15 at Riverside has lost in the past couple of months, and it's been hard on everyone," she said. "He was one of those people that thoroughly enjoyed life."

Kendra Tolley, an upcoming senior, said most of the school knew Qualls because of his friendly attitude.

"He seriously kept me smiling and laughing each day," she said. "Even if I was feeling bad."

While Tolley did not know Petry well, she said the students, staff and community members rallied together to remember him and keep his memory alive at school. She's optimistic they'll do the same for Qualls.

"I don't think the community could handle another young person losing their life," she said.

Qualls was a member of Riverside's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, whose members took to Twitter on Friday to share their condolences.

"Last night, we lost a cadet and a student. RIP Colin Qualls. You are loved and missed," the post read.

Noah Webb, an upcoming junior, said the students at Riverside High will miss the class clown.

"He made everybody laugh," Webb said. "He was an outgoing person, and he's truly missed by everybody."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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