On May 1, 1998, Amanda Hunt turned 17. "We were going to do something that weekend to celebrate," said her mother, Becky King.
They never got the chance. On May 6, the Roane County teen-ager went for a ride on the back of an ATV. The 18-year-old driver lost control and ran off the road. "They went over a 100-foot embankment airborne," her mother said. "She catapulted 95 feet. It took the paramedics an hour and a half to find her." She wasn't wearing a helmet. The wreck knocked her unconscious. After seven days on life support, she died of massive head injuries. "She never came to," her mother said. "She died peacefully."
Family members called her "Lulu." She was a student at Calhoun County High School. She wanted to be a nurse's aide "so she could take care of her grandma," her mother said. "Her grandma died 19 days after she did."
Becky King describes her daughter as spirited and fun loving, a prankster. Occasionally, she did something outlandish, like polishing her fingernails black. "But she wasn't into makeup. She had a natural look. She was just herself."
King remembers every detail of her daughter's last day. "I was in the hospital visiting my mother. When I got back, I asked where Lulu was. My daughter said she'd left in a truck with a four-wheeler on the back and said she'd be home by 11 that night. I thought she'd call about 10:30 or so, but the call didn't come. It was raining. I was uneasy. I couldn't sleep, especially with her being out on a four-wheeler.
"When the phone rang that morning, I thought it would be Lulu saying she had stayed at a friend's and was on her way to school. But it was the emergency room." For burial, they dressed her in jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt. "She wasn't a person for dresses," King said. She collected bears. They put her favorites in the casket. They added a Grateful Dead T-shirt and CDs by the Grateful Dead, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion. Her mother feels adamantly about the need for ATV safety regulations. A few minutes of joyriding, she said, cost her the life of her daughter and $40,000 in hospital bills. "Nothing anyone can say can make me change my mind about four-wheelers. They just aren't safe." To contact staff writer Sandy Wells, use e-mail or call 348-5173.