LAFAYETTE — Kylee Henry, a 14-year-old athlete often found maneuvering a two-wheeled RipStik down her neighborhood streets, looked forward to Oct. 30 as the day she would try out for the Breaux Bridge Junior High School basketball team.
Cornasha Flugence, a Breaux Bridge High School freshman known to most as “Nasha” and to family as “Nae,” was counting down the days until her Sweet 16 celebration, planned for the weekend of her Nov. 23 birthday.
Instead, more than a thousand mourners gathered in their names Friday morning in Lafayette, a week after the two were killed by an erratic driver as they walked to school.
“It’s unbelievable,” said former state Rep. Rickey Hardy, Cornasha’s godfather and a pallbearer at the funeral. “But that Niya is here with us shows you how God works.”
Niya Flugence, Cornasha’s 13-year-old sister, survived the Oct. 30 crash and was released from a Baton Rouge hospital Thursday. She sat before her sister’s silver casket in a wheelchair, her legs and right arm in casts, an eyepatch covering her right eye.
A sparkling rhinestone necklace hung from her neck. “FEARLESS,” it read.
Niya not only lost her older sister that morning on Martin Street, but also a close friend in Kylee, said the Rev. Omar Thibeaux, the Flugences’ relative who officiated the joint service at Philadelphia Christian Church.
“Niya often said that Kylee wasn’t her best friend — she was her sister,” Thibeaux said.
The 800-seat church was filled during the funeral, with attendees lining the back walls and spilling into the lobby. A line of sympathizers spilled out the door for hours before the 11 a.m. service.
Kylee’s relatives wore pink — her favorite color — like the roses atop her casket. Cornasha and her family were adorned in purple for the same reason.
“Brother will be thinking about you,” sang Markeithum Thibeaux, Cornasha’s older brother, who serenaded his sister before leaning forward to kiss her casket.
“She loved to hear her brother sing,” he said, dressed in a purple shirt and tie.
A day before the funeral, the junior high school students gathered for a balloon release in their honor.
“It was beautiful,” said St. Martin Parish Superintendent Lottie Beebe, who on Thursday delivered student-made cards to Niya in the hospital. “You could just feel the love and endearment toward the girls.”
Students at the junior high school also paid a minimum of $1 to forsake their school uniforms for blue jeans, sending the almost $800 collected to the girls’ families to help with funeral and medical expenses.
The fundraising effort will expand parish-wide Nov. 13 to all 8,400 students attending St. Martin Parish public schools, Beebe said, and faculty and staff also will have the chance to participate.
“There has been an outpouring of love and compassion for these families, and we are grateful for that,” Beebe said.
Jeremy Abraham, 32, of Breaux Bridge, was released from the hospital and arrested Tuesday on several counts related to the crash, including two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of negligent vehicular injuring.
Police say he was driving more than twice the 25-mph speed limit and suspect he was impaired during crash, which happened just before 7:30 a.m. A toxicology report is pending.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.