Two local girls dead after rollover accident

Del Oro junior and Newcastle 8th-grader died at scene
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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When: First 12 months after license issued

What: Licensee may not do any of the following unless accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver who is the licensees’s parent or guardian, a licensed driver who is 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor:

  • Drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Transport passengers who are under 20 years of age.         

Source: California Highway Patrol


The deaths of a Del Oro High School junior and a Newcastle Elementary School 8th-grader in a rollover accident Sunday evening on Auburn Folsom Road has sent shock waves through the community.

Morgan Helman, 17, and Vivian Conner, 13, were killed when the sport utility vehicle they were riding in left Auburn Folsom Road and overturned. Morgan was from Carmichael, but attended Del Oro.

The girls, who were not wearing seatbelts, were pronounced dead at the scene of the single-vehicle crash, which was reported at 7:35 p.m., Feb. 3, the California Highway Patrol said.

According to Dave Martinez, public information office for the California Highway Patrol, a 17-year-old male from Auburn was driving a 2002 White Chevy Tahoe southbound on Auburn Folsom Road, north of Less Lane, at an unknown rate of speed.  The driver was transporting five passengers, all teenagers. 

He said the two teenage girls who died were seated in the right rear seats and not wearing their seatbelts. The other four occupants who were wearing seatbelts survived, but suffered complaints of pain that were categorized as minor to moderate injuries, Martinez said. One 16-year-old female passenger was transported to Sutter Roseville Medical Center by AMR Ambulance with moderate injuries, he said.

All other occupants of the vehicle were released to their parents at the scene.

Martinez said a drivers license check determined the 17-year-old male driver was driving with a provisional drivers license, restricting him from transporting passengers under the age of 20 years of age. Martinez said the driver was issued his license four months ago.

No alcohol was apparently involved the Highway Patrol reported.

The 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV sustained rollover damage to the front end and part of the roof, he said.

Dan Gayaldo, Del Oro principal, on Monday said the school “is in a state of numbness and shock.”

He said Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy members and school counselors had two classrooms set aside for grieving students to visit.

Gayaldo said he met with all of Morgan’s teachers Monday morning and a statement was read by all teachers to their students.

“We’ve set up as much support as we can,” he said.

He also said an email would be going out to all school families.

Chaplain Carol Parker was at the scene of the accident on Sunday night and was also at the school on Monday meeting with students. She said “dozens and dozens” of students had sought solace in the classrooms where counselors were available.

“She was the most amazing kid,” Parker said of Morgan, based on the comments she was hearing from students who knew her.

“She was new to the school in September, but many students felt like she was their best friend. She had the ability to make everyone feel like they were the most important,” Parker said.

She said, “Some of the comments they’ve made are ‘She lit up the room when she walked in,’ ‘She could make you laugh no matter what was going on,’ ‘She felt beautiful and brave with her glasses on,’ ‘She only knew how to be herself.’”

Parker said she could tell Morgan reached out to others. She also said that many Del Oro students expressed concern for the students at Newcastle Elementary where Vivian was a student.

“They are worried about the younger kids,” Parker said.

She said chaplains were also on hand at Newcastle Elementary to help students and staff.

Linda Smith-Rains, Del Oro Peer Helper advisor, said peer helpers were circulating on campus on Monday.

“There’s lots of hugging and talking going on,” she said.

Morgan’s death marks the third Del Oro student death in a little more than a month.

On Jan. 4, hundreds attended a celebration of life for Lucas Armand, 15, who was a freshman last year, and died on Dec. 20 from pneumonia after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on Sept. 23, 2011 that resulted in a debilitating anoxic brain injury.

On Jan. 9, chaplains and counselors were on the school campus when students returned from winter break after freshman Hannah Olson committed suicide on Jan. 5.

Parker, who was also on campus at that time to offer counseling and support, said for Del Oro,  “It has been one grief on top of another.”

Martinez said, “Always remember to wear your seats belts properly at all times.  If you get behind the wheel, make sure you buckle up and ensure your passengers do the same. Wearing your seat belt can save your life and the lives of those you love.”

Gold Country News Services’ Gus Thomson contributed to this story.