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Catoosa community mourns loss of high school student

Dillon Jernegan, a Catoosa high school athlete, died Tuesday, April 5, 2016 after a wreck days earlier. (Courtesy)

The community of Catoosa is mourning the loss of a high school athlete who died this week.

Locker number 35 carries special importance for Catoosa basketball coach John Coons. It belonged to one of his players, Dillon Jernegan.

"Dillon is one of those I will never forget, four years from now his picture will be hanging somewhere," Coons said. "He just had that infectious smile, attitude, goofy."

Jernegan's outgoing personality is captured in this picture, given to us by Coons.

"It didn't matter what clique you were in or whatever, you knew who Dillion was. Just seeing him lumber in, walking through the gym made me smile. He was just that kind of kid," Coons said.

Jernegan was a young man full of life and focused on improving his basketball and soccer skills. But his time was cut short after a tragic accident.

"My guys are my family so when you get the call that something like that happens it's just like one of your own kids is going through it," Coons said.

Catoosa police said Jernegan was driving near Pine and Lynn Lane Sunday morning when his vehicle suddenly left the roadway, striking a concrete culvert. The impact flipped his car up against a telephone pole, trapping him inside until help arrived.

Jernegan died Tuesday night, leaving Coons and his players with heavy hearts.

"Everybody will miss him and it's like I told some of the guys, you just got to take something from his life from this event and apply it to yours," Coons said.

Students are planning a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Jernegan.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

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