Vancleave High Teacher, Soldier And Child Killed In Crash - - The News for South Mississippi

Vancleave High Teacher, Soldier And Child Killed In Crash

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - "There is just only one Shyla, one Phillip, they were precious," Vancleave High School Teacher Debra Brown said.

Debra Brown and student Lauren Brown have shed many tears since hearing the heartbreaking news about Shyla and Phillip VanAlstine.

"I don't understand how someone that great of a person can be gone like that. She definitely didn't deserve it. And her husband was, he was armed forces. They just had that family tie," Lauren Brown said.

Loved ones say Shyla VanAlstine was an outstanding English teacher and vibrant volleyball coach at Vancleave High for 14 years. Her husband Philip was a military man, serving in Iraq for about one year. The couple also had three children they loved and cherished.

"She was a great mother, her kids were her entire world," Lauren Brown said.

Tuesday morning, the family's world came to horrifying end. Officials with Louisiana State Police say Philip, Shyla and two of their daughters were on Interstate 12. A driver, following too closely, locked bumpers with the family's van causing them to slam into an 18-wheeler. Mother, father and their oldest daughter, Haylie, were killed.

"Kaytie is in the hospital right now, and the other child is at home with her grandparents," Vancleave High School Principal Todd Knight said.

Vancleave High Principal Todd Knight still can't believe the tragedy.

"I was hoping I would wake up, and it was just a nightmare. Just a waste of three great people. We just pray that they are happy in heaven," said Knight.

In less than two weeks, kids will return to class at Vancleave High School. Principal Knight said although he will have to fill Mrs. VanAlstine's position, she will never be replaced in the hearts and minds of teachers and students.

"I just want to say, we love you Shyla, and we will never forget you. Thank you for all your wisdom and love," Brown said.

Police say the VanAlstines' four-year-old daughter is still at a Baton Rouge hospital in critical condition.

The driver that hit the family's van has not been released from the hospital, but police say she will face three counts of negligent homicide charges after she's cleared by doctors.

Phillip VanAlstine joined the National Guard in Feb 1992.  He was a member of the 859th Vertical Company, an engineering company. A sub unit of the 850th Battalion is headquartered in Gulfport.  VanAlstine spent one year in Iraq from March of 2003 until his return in April of 2004.

He has been on military leave from Northrop Grumman since March of 2008.  He had been working at the National Guard Armory since then.

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