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Family copes with loss of 3 relatives

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By Jesef Williams

Three lives were lost in a flash Monday.

A mother. A daughter. A granddaughter.

Doris McClinton, Felicia McClinton and Crystal Evans were heading back from a Memorial Day event at a relative's house in Rock Hill when the unthinkable happened.

The SUV they were riding in hit a tree. They died right there.

Nobody had a chance to say goodbye. There were no final "I love yous." Now family members are coping with the awful feeling of losing three loved ones in an instant.

A frantic situation

It was about 11 p.m. Monday, and all Doris McClinton's granddaughter, Ketta Evans, heard was screaming and crying coming through the phone.

Felicia McClinton's daughter, Qweionia Alexander, was on the other end, telling her cousin about their accident a few moments earlier on S.C. 5. Seven people in all were in the GMC Denali.

Qweionia Alexander didn't know it at the time, but she was just one of four who survived the wreck.

"She was screaming hysterically," Ketta Evans said. "She was telling me she couldn't move."

Ketta, who was in Lancaster at the time, rushed to get to the scene. When she arrived, an ambulance was on its way to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

There, she learned that three family members had died in the crash.

Felicia's sister, Della McClinton, remembers how doctors delivered the news in pieces.

"They told us about Crystal first," she said.

"All I was saying was, 'This can't be true. This can't be real,'" Della McClinton said.

Memorializing family

Doris McClinton, 65, is remembered as a loving grandmother who was a member of God's Holy Temple Church in Lancaster. She attended Barr Street High School, loved to fish and didn't hesitate to "tell it like it is."

She leaves behind six children and a host of grandchildren.

Her grandson, Recio Evans, said she always looked forward to family get-togethers. But who knew that the Memorial Day celebration would be her last?

Felicia McClinton, 34, was married and had three children, all of whom were in the SUV. Her mother was Doris McClinton. Felicia had known her husband, Lawrence Alexander, for nearly 20 years. A Lancaster High School graduate, she worked at Citi Financial in Fort Mill as a mortgage specialist.

She was a spur-of-the-moment jokester who liked to see everyone happy.

"Her smile – it was the biggest smile in the world," said Lawrence Alexander.

Crystal Evans, 23, whose mother died years ago, attended Lancaster High and was a sales associate at Wal-Mart. Doris McClinton was her grandmother and Felicia McClinton was her aunt.

Family members say Crystal had a nice personality and would do anything to help you. She was liked by most children. She was engaged to Garrett Ballard, who was driving the GMC Denali on Monday.

Like her grandmother, Crystal Evans would also give you the blunt truth.

"If you got out of place, she didn't mind putting you back in," Lawrence Alexander said.

Recovering

Crystal Evans' fiance and Felicia McClinton's three children were seriously injured in the wreck.

On Thursday afternoon, they remained at Carolinas Medical Center.

Garrett Ballard, the driver, suffered two broken ribs and a crushed knee. He also fractured his right cheekbone. By Wednesday, he already had reconstructive surgery on his knee.

Qweionia Alexander, 17, was bruised badly on her lower back.

Zanqweonia Alexander, 15, suffered a broken rib and broken facial bones.

Lawrence Alexander, 12, broke his wrist, a bone in his leg and his jaw.

He and Zanqweonia had surgery Tuesday and started therapy on Wednesday.

The family hopes that everyone will be released from the hospital by early next week.

What happened?

Lawrence Alexander said the SUV had some front-end problems that prevented it from being steered straight. Crystal Evans, who owned the SUV, and her fiance, Garrett Ballard, had gone to get the issue checked out about a week before the accident.

Garrett Ballard was coming down a hill on S.C. 5 when the vehicle pulled to the right. He tried to steer it back on the road, but it went off the road and hit a tree, family members say.

The S.C. Highway Patrol continues to investigate the accident and has not released detailed information about what caused the crash. No other vehicle was involved.

One funeral

Etheria Curry, Doris' oldest daughter, said the family is planning to have one funeral service.

The day depends on when the other four occupants will be able to leave the hospital.

Considering the pain the family is going through right now, Etheria Curry can't imagine having to attend three separate funerals in such a short period.

She said everyone has to be strong for each other and put everything in God's hands.

"I know it was their time," Curry said. "It hurts, but we will always have their memories."

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at 283-1152