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Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- Just a couple weeks ago, Hannah Simon was the picture of happiness, on the verge of experiencing an important milestone in her life -- graduation.

'She's vivacious. She's the stubborn one in the family, you know. She's full of life, always smiling,' said Simon's sister, Rachel.

But everything changed in an instant for the Covington High School senior the night of April 20, when an SUV slammed into the car she was driving on Hwy. 435 in a remote area of St. Tammany Parish.

Simon was transported to the LSU Trauma Center in New Orleans, where she's still on a ventilator and feeding tube -- fighting for her life.

'I just think it's devastating, you know. With graduation, you know, my sister was prepared to go to college and her biggest concern was fixing her hair with her cap and gown, and now she's on life support in New Orleans,' Rachel said.

In a tragic case of coincidence, one of Hannah Simon's classmates at CHS, Kayla Dearman, was killed in a separate crash just about an hour later and only a few miles away, along Hwy. 21.

Authorities said Dearman veered off the roadway and struck a culvert, causing her vehicle to flip several times.

At Covington High, the news was met with shock.

'When it's just a few weeks before graduation and (students) are all coming closer together as a graduating class. It just makes it really, really difficult for them,' said Principal Deborah McCollum. 'We're a family, you know, so we all pulled together. The kids pulled together. They supported each other. The faculty pulled together. We supported each other to get through it.'

Now, the entire school is honoring Kayla Dearman's memory, while pulling for Hannah Simon's recovery, right along with her loved ones.

Rachel Simon said the support has been overwhelming.

'My sister is the feisty one. She's stubborn and she's hard headed, and I feel like if anyone is gonna pull through this in my family, it's her,' Rachel said.

State police still aren't sure what led to Dearman's accident, which didn't involve any other vehicles.

As for Hannah Simon's crash, police charged the other driver, 65-year-old Kenneth Gibbs, with a DWI.

However, officials said the accident wasn't Gibbs' fault, but they point out, the district attorney could decide to pursue further action.

Officials said neither student was wearing a seatbelt.

Family members have set up a fund for Hannah Simon's soaring medical expenses.

Donations can be dropped off at any Capitol One location, they said.

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