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Friends mourn teen
Wreck victim remembered as singer, scholar
Cross Memorial 1 es
Adam Means and Nick Hancock dig a hole for the cross they put up honoring the late Kaleb Payne in northwestern Forsyth County. - photo by Emily Saunders

A West Forsyth High School student died Thursday afternoon of what authorities said were traumatic injuries suffered a day earlier in a two-vehicle collision in northwestern Forsyth.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Capt. Frank Huggins said the family of 16-year-old Kaleb Payne took him off life support at Grady Memorial Hospital. He died about 4 p.m.

Payne was driving a 1994 Ford Mustang that collided with a 2000 Ford F350 at Heardsville and Watson roads about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday.

West Forsyth juniors Adam Means, Nick Hancock and Sarah Myers went to the intersection late Thursday after they learned of Payne's death. Near a pile of shattered glass, they hammered a cross in the ground, marking the spot where their friend's vehicle had landed.

Means, 17, who was in chorus with Payne, said he considered him one of his best friends.

"Life ain't gonna be the same without him, but we've got to move on. That's what he would've wanted us to do," Means said. "He's in a better place."

Payne will be missed, said Hancock, who recalled how his friend was "always painted up at the football games."

Myers, who like Hancock is 16, fought back tears as she spoke of losing Payne.

"He's been my best friend since kindergarten and he's not here," she said. "There's a message somewhere and we've just got to find it."

It was the first fatal wreck on Forsyth County roads since early September and second of 2008 involving a high school student. A 17-year-old South Forsyth student died in a one-vehicle wreck Jan. 2 on Ga. 400.

Myers said Payne wanted to be everything. Means recalled him as an accomplished singer.

"That kid could sing and I'll always remember him for that," he said.

The students decorated the cross with a red and a white rose intertwined at the top. On it they wrote Payne's name, birthday and date of death. A University of Georgia key chain also hung from the marker.

Myers said students have started a fund at the school, called the Campayne, to collect money for his family. Both of Payne's parents are school district employees.

The students said they were upset that there are no stop signs at the Heardsville-Watson intersection. Means said there should be a traffic light or turning lane.

"I'm not going to get to hug him anymore," Myers said.

Added Means: "I won't get to hear him laugh."

West Forsyth Principal Richard Gill said Payne's death was "heartbreaking."

"He was well-liked and cherished by those who knew him for his kind nature," he said. "Kaleb was a shining star in our broadcast media, advanced drama and chorus classes."

Gill said Payne and his mother, who works in the school media center, came to West from South Forsyth High School.

"He will be greatly missed," he said. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. We will have counselors available for students and staff."

According to his obituary, Payne is survived by his parents, Kenneth Ray and Vivian Payne of Cumming, sister and brother-in-law, Kristy "Sissy" and Toby Hamby of Cumming, and a nephew.

Other survivors include his grandparents, the Rev. Emerson and Wansley Payne of Dawsonville and Eula Kinsey of Cumming.

Payne was an active member of the Cumming Second Baptist Church and played travel baseball for six years in Forsyth and surrounding counties, according to the obituary.

Ingram Funeral Home handled the funeral arrangements. The family received friends Sunday, with the funeral Monday afternoon at the Cumming Second Baptist Church on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.

Interment followed in Sawnee View Memorial Gardens.

Danielle Girardeau, 16, is also a junior at West. She said she met Payne in the sixth grade chorus.

"We talked a lot in school this year, and he sat right next to me in choir, actually," she said.

"He was just probably one of the nicest and greatest people I've ever met. He never said one bad thing about someone, I don't think. And he never was negative in any way, ever. He just was always positive and made everything feel better."