Orangeburg, SC (WLTX) - The Claflin University community is mourning the loss of four of their students.
Melvin Jackson, Darrell Pendergrass, Keeron McElveen and Jamarius Bruce died as a result of a car crash last night on Interstate 77. All four were from South Carolina and sports management majors.
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About 900 people gathered for a prayer service Friday afternoon to mourn and heal.
The community members prayed, sang and encouraged each other to find hope in God.
President Dr. Henry Tisdale says this will be a defining moment for students, but one everyone will remember especially how they came together as a family.
Tisdale also says the university is better because those four young men were a part of it.
“We are going to stick together and make sure we all get through this together,” Shakeal Paul explained.
Paul knew all four students and says they were all people you wanted to be around.
“If you were like having a gloomy day or something, the only thing you had to do was go and talk to them and your mood would be switched instantly,” the Claflin senior said of his friends. “You would forget everything that you were mad about previously, so they were just very, very joyful and just happy people all the time.”
A fifth student, Gernardo Cato was also in the car and remains in a Columbia hospital in serious condition.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol says the students' vehicle crossed the center median of I-77 near the Killian Road exit, colliding head-on with another car.
The driver of the other vehicle was also hospitalize and is recovering from non-life threatening injuries.
The investigation is ongoing.