Georgia college volleyball player, 21, dies after her car crashes into tree while hurrying home ahead of Hurricane Dorian
Karissa Grace Tatum crashed her car into a tree while driving back home and succumbed to her injuries this past week.
A Georgia volleyball player tragically died in a car crash while trying to flee Hurricane Dorian, which was fast approaching the state. Karissa Grace Tatum, who had turned 21 just two weeks ago, succumbed to her injuries after she crashed her car while leaving Savannah State University, where she was in her junior year of a Journalism and Mass Communications degree, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She was reportedly driving home to LaFayette on the I-16 on September 1 when the car hydroplaned - a phenomenon that occurs when a layer of water builds between the wheels and the road surface, resulting in a loss of traction - and swerved into a tree. She was transported to the hospital for treatment but did not survive her injuries. Other passengers that were in the car at the time survived the accident. Her obituary states that she was an Honor Roll student whose passion in life was sports, primarily soccer and volleyball.
Karissa had a standout athletic career at LaFayette High School in Walker County, and after graduating in 2017, had subsequently received an opportunity to join the Lady Tigers at SSU. As news of her death spread, several in the community came to pay their condolences.
“She was like a best friend, she was a great person, she would give anything to anybody. She would do anything to make you smile,” said De’Antonette Rodriguez, Tatum’s teammate and roommate told WSAV.
"My heart is heavy right now. The world lost a bright light," wrote John Wright, a LaFayette teacher. "Please pray for the Tatum family as they cope with the loss of their sweet daughter, Karissa ... She was such a joy. Such a painful loss for the LaFayette community." Her former high school team, the Lady Ramblers, took to the court following her death wearing orange and blue ribbons, the Savannah State Colors, and with her initials and numbers painted on their legs. They went on to pick up big wins against Ringgold and the previously undefeated Calhoun.
"Karissa was the epitome of a competitor," the team wrote on its Facebook page. "She didn’t care who you were, she was gonna show up and show out. Everyone that knew Karissa, was lucky to meet a special person. Karissa made an impact on the North Georgia Volleyball community and will be greatly missed. Please keep her family, friends, teammates (past and present, and coaches in your prayers."
SSU Interim President Kimberly Ballard-Washington also released a statement addressing Karissa's death and urged that her family be given privacy at this difficult time. "On behalf of the Savannah State University family, I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Miss Tatum," she said. "As caring members of the Tiger family, let us all do everything possible to support each other during this difficult time. Please keep the family in your thoughts during this difficult time."
Karissa's funeral services will be held at 2 pm on Wednesday, September 11, at the chapel of Heritage Funeral Home and Crematory in Battlefield Parkway. Students were able to return to Savannah State University campus on September 7, days after Hurricane Dorian left the area.