ECHS coach killed in crash

Published 11:32 am Saturday, November 13, 2010

A candlelight vigil was held for ECHS coach William Casaday on Wednesday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium. Above, some of his softball players pay their respects.|Photo by Adam Prestridge

More than 100 students, faculty and friends attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to celebrate the life of Escambia County High School softball coach William Casaday.

The 30-year-old coach was killed in a head-on collision early Wednesday morning in Baldwin County on his way to school where he also taught drivers education.

During the vigil, which was held on the football field at Herbert Barnes Stadium, students embraced each other as others shared their memories of the beloved coach who was described best for his dedication to his students.

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Escambia County High School principal Zickeyous Byrd said the vigil was a great way to honor the school’s fallen coach.

“I think it was great,” Byrd said. “I was pleased to see the amount of people that came out to honor coach Casaday and support him. It shows the huge impact that he had on this school and community.”

Word of Casaday’s accident quickly spread throughout Escambia County Wednesday morning. Escambia County Board of Education Superintendent Billy Hines said Byrd informed the faculty, staff and students of the tragedy as soon as confirmation that the accident involved Casaday was made. He added that counselors were dispatched to the school.

“We immediately dispatched our counselors from across the county to Escambia County High School to be there for the students during this difficult time,” Hines said Wednesday morning. “We are allowing the students to seek counseling throughout the day if needed. We do, however, encourage the students to stay in school to be with their classmates.”

According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the crash occurred at 6:35 a.m. on Phillipsville Road approximately eight miles north of Bay Minette. Casaday was traveling north when the 2010 Hyundai Elantra he was driving traveled into the southbound lane and collided with a 2004 F250 being driven by Timothy Andrew Bush, 17, of Bay Minette.

Casaday was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bush was transported to North Baldwin Infirmary where he was treated for injuries. State Troopers continue to investigate the accident.

Casaday’s death was not just felt by students and coworkers at ECHS, it also hit hard with his friends and students at Perdido Middle School where he was coaching football and basketball.

In a letter placed at the scene of the accident, a student from Perdido wrote what she felt about the Casaday’s accident.

“Today is harder than most. Tears are heavy today. I miss you coach. Sometimes there are no words, only shoulders to lean on, hands to hold and hugs to comfort. When none of it made any sense and just as I was about to lose faith, God whispered in my ear ‘Heaven needed a hero.’ A smile can hide the tears, a laugh can hide the pain, but nothing stops the longing to have you back again. I love you coach and always will. You will live on through our hearts on the field and the court.”

A Facebook page has also been launched as a memorial to Casaday that allows visitors of the page to post memories and condolences for the ECHS coach. The page is titled “RIP Coach William Casaday” and can be accessed through the Facebook home page.

Friends poured their messages onto the page leaving the memories they will always have of Casaday.

ECHS graduate Justin Stabler said in his post that he will remember the good time he had in Casaday’s drivers education class.

“RIP Coach Casaday, I’ll never forget the moments we had in drivers ed with me, you, and Shay,” Stabler wrote. “We have a lot of memories that will last a lifetime, and Heaven is now a better place because you are there.”

Visitation was held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Friday night at Mack Funeral Home in Robertsdale. Funeral services will be held at 9 a.m. today at Mack Funeral Home followed by 3 p.m. graveside services in Reeltown.

Publisher Adam Prestridge contributed to this report.