Virginia Cheerleader Killed, 3 Teammates Hurt in Maryland Crash

Katana Graves was strong, small and always joyful.

That's how teammates are remembering a 15-year-old competitive cheerleader who was killed in a car crash in Maryland on the way to a competition in Delaware on Sunday.

The crash left three other cheerleaders hurt.

Graves, a student at Warren County High School in Front Royal, Virginia, was riding in an SUV that crashed on I-95 in Perryville, Maryland. A total of four juveniles and two parents were rushed to hospitals after state troopers responded at about 3:20 p.m. Sunday. Graves was pronounced dead.

"She was always smiling. No matter what, she was smiling," her friend Trinity Holben said Tuesday. "If she was hurt, she wouldn't say, because she just wanted to complete."

At the gym in Front Royal where Graves once practiced, her teammates and friends comforted one another. They looked at photos of their years together.

"We will forever mourn the loss of Katana, but remember her laughter, her smile and her eyes in our hearts," coach Donna Rogers said.

About 2 1/2 years ago, Graves joined a new cheer team: Cheer Eruption All-Stars in Winchester. She was being remembered there too.

And at Graves' high school, dozens and dozens of red roses were laid on the school's sign.

The competitive cheerleader was what's known as a flyer. She topped complicated pyramid formations. At Warren County High, Graves' team advanced to the state tournament in November.

Graves was riding in a Ford Expedition with seven people on board when the driver, a team dad, switched lanes on northbound I-95 and hit a Chevrolet Silverado, police said. The Silverado then hit a tractor-trailer. The Expedition ran off to the shoulder, hit the guardrail and came to rest in a ditch.

Graves and at least one other person were ejected from the SUV. She was rushed to a hospital, where she died.

Two 16-year-olds, a 14-year-old and two adults also were taken to hospitals. The driver refused medical treatment. The drivers of the Silverado and tractor-trailer were not hurt.

Neither alcohol nor speed are believed to have been factors in the crash. Police said it's not yet known if the passengers were wearing seat belts. No charges have been filed.

One victim, 16-year-old Jenny Shenk, was badly injured and treated in the intensive care unit. Her condition has improved, but Tuesday night she remained in the hospital.

"Hopefully by this weekend, they'll all be able to come home," her sister, Ashley Shenk, said.

Graves' family has an online fundraising page.

Cheer Eruption All-Stars is collecting donations online for all of the affected families, to be divided equally or as specified by the donors. They also are accepting cards and donations for the families by mail. Items can be dropped off or sent to: 

Cheer Eruption
Attention: Brittany DuVall
111 Musket Drive
Winchester, VA 22602

Additionally, a fundraiser for the affected families will be held at Buffalo Wild Wings in Winchester on Wednesday, Jan. 30. All day, 15 percent of profits will go to Cheer Eruption, to benefit the families.

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