Tatum Tootoosis-Didier, the 2016 R.A. Long High School graduate who died in a car accident Friday afternoon near Rainier, was an honor student and multi-sport athlete and role model for others, her coaches and other educators at the school said Monday.
Tatum played volleyball, softball and basketball for the Lumberjills, and many of Tatum’s teammates were “devastated” by the loss of their former teammate, said Jennifer Godinho-Hefley, the school’s volleyball and softball coach.
“(They) didn’t know how to feel or act,” Godinho-Hefley said. “This is just something that one shouldn’t have to deal with in their lifetime, two years after graduation.”
Godinho-Hefley described Tatum, 19, as a friendly and outgoing person.
“Tatum was pretty much an extremely caring individual,” she said. “She definitely loved to help with younger kids and be a role model for younger kids. She was the person who kept everything lighthearted, and said, ‘Let’s all just get along and enjoy things.’ She brightened up the room, definitely.”
Godinho-Hefley also said Tatum, who was also an honor student, was willing to do anything to help her team.
“Tatum was one that you could turn to,” Godinho-Hefley said. “She wanted to perform and do her best for her teammates. She wanted to make her coaches and her parents proud.”
R.A. Long Principal Rich Reeves said the school didn’t bring in extra counselors on Monday, but it did prepare its counseling staff to help students deal with the tragedy.
“We’re there for our kids at R.A. Long High School, and if they need us, we’re going to support them,” he said.
Reeves said his daughter played basketball with Tatum, and the teen’s death was “hard” on her. “She was a good kid,” Reeves said of Tatum.
The driver in Friday’s collision, Kassandra Westom, 19, of Longview, was in stable condition at Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver as of Monday morning. Westom is a 2016 Mark Morris High School graduate.
A spokesman for the Oregon State Police said troopers are still investigating the crash to see if impairment might have been a factor. The OSP reports that Westom and Tootoosis-Didier were southbound on Highway 30 when Westom attempted to make a left turn at the intersection with Laurelwood Road. Her 2008 Nissan Altima was struck on the passenger side by a fully loaded, northbound 2017 Kenworth log truck.
The crash forced both vehicles off the roadway, coming to rest in the yard of an adjacent residence.