|Birth: ||Jul. 3, 1989|
|Death: ||Sep. 12, 2006|
SAMANTHA MICHELLE MERCHANT, 17, of rural Churubusco, died Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006, in rural Allen County following a one vehicle accident. Born in Fort Wayne, she was a lifelong resident of Churubusco, and was currently a junior at Churubusco High School. She had been elected to this year's homecoming court, served as vice president of the Key Club, and had been an active member of Churubusco New Era Show Choir and the school's theater department. Surviving are her parents, Robert B. and Anna (Jewell) Merchant of Churubusco; brother, Jonathan Merchant, at home; half brother, Andrew Jewell of Fort Benning, Ga.; grandparents, Mildred Jewell of Fort Wayne and Milton Jewell of Baton Rouge, La.; and several aunts, uncles, and cousins. She was preceded in death by her paternal grandparents, James Merchant and Beverly Merchant. Service is 10 a. m. Saturday at Jason Smith Auditorium at Churubusco High School, with visitation one hour before the service. Calling also from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Sheets & Childs Funeral Home, Churubusco. Interment in Riverview Cemetery, south of Churubusco. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Churubusco High School New Era Show Choir. Condolences emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Floral tributes for electrocution victims
Teen, Samaritan recalled fondly
Friends flowed in and out of Samantha Merchant's rural Churubusco home Wednesday. They played video games, talked and cried.
On the south side of Fort Wayne, friends at Fellowship Missionary Church remembered the special transformation Charles "Mike" Webb made when he was baptized at the church this summer.
Merchant, 17, and Webb, 35, were killed and two others were injured when they came into contact with a downed power line after a car crash along Bryie Road on Tuesday night.
Mourners left flowers, a photograph and other mementos at the crash scene.
Merchant was with her friend Shawn Fingerle, 15, while driving to another friend's house in the Churubusco area Tuesday evening. She lost control of the teal Ford she was driving and hit a utility pole, her friends Amber Johnson and Jessica Tartaglia said Wednesday.
The 17-year-old spent her last evening painting the stairs in the Campus Life room at her school for the Key Club, Tartaglia said. The two girls were part of the homecoming court together this year.
Johnson also worked with the teen on student council, she said.
Merchant also was active in show choir and the high school theater department at Churubusco High School, where she was a junior.
Teenagers streamed in and out of the Merchant family home all day Wednesday, her father Robert Merchant said. He was still unsure exactly what happened Tuesday night.
"My heart's ripped out," he said. "I don't think I'll ever get it back."
It was still unclear Wednesday whether Merchant or Fingerle suffered injuries when they hit the pole. Fingerle, who lives down the road from the site of the crash, remained in serious condition Wednesday at St. Joseph Hospital.
When the two teens crashed about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Webb and his girlfriend, Marina Garza, both of Fort Wayne, stopped to help the teens, who had apparently gotten out of the car. Garza, 39, later told police that as she and Webb approached the teens she saw Webb fall to the ground. She then fell to the ground and was unconscious for about a minute before regaining consciousness, said Steve Stone, spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff's Department.
Garza told police she realized she had been shocked and backed away from the car that was embedded in the cornfield, Stone said.
The electrical shock to Webb, however, killed him and apparently killed Merchant as well. Autopsies were conducted Wednesday, but the results were not released.
Garza was taken to a local hospital in good condition and remained hospitalized Wednesday, Stone said.
Garza, however, told her pastor she hoped to be released Wednesday and she seemed to be doing well, said Dave DeSelm, senior pastor at Fellowship Missionary Church.
She had suffered burns to her hand and the toes on her right foot when she touched Webb while he was being shocked, DeSelm said. Her first step was to grab him when he had been shocked, and the current went through her from her hand and down through her toes, he said.
Garza told DeSelm that the couple saw lines sagging overhead when they stopped to help. But they didn't know there was an errant line hanging close to the ground, hiding among the corn stalks, he said.
Garza introduced Webb to the church. He began coming in June and turned his life around, DeSelm said. In July, he was baptized at the church.
Webb is survived by a teenage son, Dustin, said Larry Danforth, a friend and former business partner of Webb's.
Danforth was surprised that Webb would have gone near a downed power line. He was familiar with electrical wiring, Danforth said.
The two men ran a mortgage company together in the late 1990s before Webb went back to working in the construction industry, Danforth said.
On Wednesday, mourners traversed muddy Bryie Road to leave mementos including what appeared to be a container of General Tso's Chicken at the crash site. The impact of the teal Ford cut a 10-foot gash in the wall of corn that towered along the road.
It's not clear where the power line fell. The crash snapped the pole in half, but the wires never broke loose from the pole and were energized until the utility company cut power to the line along Bryie Road, said Lynn Sauders, safety coordinator for Northeastern REMC.
Coming into contact with a live line or with a car the line is lying on could shock people and, depending on the voltage and amperage of the line, kill them, Sauders said. The line along Bryie Road carries 7,200 volts of electricity, but Sauders was not sure of its amperage.
The electric shock would be enough to stop the heart and cause visible burns on the body, he said. Wet conditions and the person's body type would affect the extent of the injuries, he said.
In more than 20 years, Northeastern REMC has reported only two other fatal accidents with live power lines, Sauders said.
Danforth said it was Webb's nature to help. He recalled that Webb once drove from Fort Wayne to Blue Lake in Churubusco to help tow Danforth's stalled boat to shore.
"I'll never forget that."
Maintained by: Jim Cox
Originally Created by: MadameB
Record added: Sep 14, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15728065