PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Smart. Caring. Beautiful.
Those are just some of the words used to describe the life of a 23-year-old University of Southern Mississippi student whose life was cut short on Thanksgiving Day. Jada Bright, of Slidell, was one of three people who died while driving north on I-59 when she was struck and killed by 48-year-old Shelley Rose of Asheville, N.C.
“The police department operator that was on-duty that day knew my family,” said Andre Bright, Jada’s brother, tearfully. “So, she called us and told us that we needed to come to the police department, because she was involved in a bad accident. At that time, I knew something wasn’t right, because why do you go check on your family members at the police department?”
The five-vehicle crash that happened just after 10:30 a.m. also led to the deaths of Rose and 45-year-old Evens Vincent of Albertville, Ala and injured at least five others.
“The coroner, the paramedics that were out there (and) the police have all contacted us to tell us how this was the worst thing that they have ever seen in 20 years,” said Jennifer Posey - Bright, Jada’s cousin-in-law. “They all said they had never seen anything like this before.”
According to Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Travis Luck, Rose crossed into the southbound lane and crashed head-on into Bright’s Saturn. After hitting Bright, Rose hit Vincent’s Nissan Altima head-on.
“You don’t really process it until you see a car and you see the condition that it was in and I see Jada’s shoes at the pedal and I see that she was thrown out the seatbelt,” said Posey - Bright. “To be hit like that, she had to have been going extremely fast. You can’t even comprehend that a car could come a part like that. The car was in two pieces.”
Authorities say they don’t know why Rose was traveling on the wrong side of the road adding. toxicology reports were sent to the state crime lab for testing. Arrest records show that Rose had previous run-ins with law enforcement. Just two days before the deadly crash, Rose was arrested in Lauderdale County for felony DUI (driving under the influence)/4th offense. She was given a $10, 000 bond where she bonded out the same day. But, it doesn’t stop there. The next day she was arrested an hour and a half away in Jones County on a misdemeanor charge for public drunkenness. However, she was released the next day.
“On a misdemeanor crime, it’s not like a felony where we can hold them,” said Lt. Scott Wuertz with Ellisville police in an interview with WLOX-TV. "We are only allowed to hold them on public (drunkenness) six hours before allowing them to post bond.”
Bright was headed home to spend the holidays with her family, according to Posey-Bright. One out of eight siblings, Jada was close to her brothers and sisters especially after the loss of her parents.
“Jada’s mom died of a brain aneurysm when she was really young and they just lost their father four months ago to cancer,” Posey-Bright said. “So, all they (siblings) have is each other. So, she was going to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving and she probably would’ve made a trip to everybody’s house.”
Cheryl Jenkins, USM’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism associate professor and graduate coordinator, confirmed to WDAM-TV that Bright was a first semester senior studying public relations. Jenkins also said she was expected to graduate in Spring 2019.
“She always wanted to be the best version of herself and she wanted to make everyone in her family proud,” said Posey-Bright. “She loved makeup and fashion and she was a writer. She liked to write. She had a blog. She loved taking photos.”
In her honor, the family created The Jada Bright Heart of Gold Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund is open to high school seniors set to graduate in May planning to study mass communication, public relations or sports management. Those interested in donating can do so at any Hancock Whitney Bank under the scholarship’s name or via PayPal.
Bright was laid to rest on Dec. 1 in her hometown surrounded by family and loved ones.
“I personally feel like the state of Mississippi failed Jayda and Evens and the other people that were in the accident that were able to walk away from it,” said Posey – Bright. “There are safeguards that are in place for stuff like this not to occur and they were overlooked. There’s too many questions and not enough of the right answers… evidently something was going on in her (Shelley Rose) life that she needed help, too. And the system also failed her, because everybody could be alive today.”
Family says Bright’s light was dimmed too soon due to a system failure and now they want answers as to why?
“I believe the law is in place to prevent this from happening,” said Andre Bright. “But, somebody who had the authority, I would think, allowed or didn’t prevent this or didn’t follow the right protocols or safeguards that had already been established to prevent such tragedies.”