Tragic crash brings outpouring of support


CROSSROADS, Alabama — A fatal crash Sunday night in the Crossroads community near Bay Minette has prompted an outpouring of emotion and support for the families of the three teenage victims.

On Monday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released a statement that three juveniles, traveling southbound on County Road 39 at approximately 8:10 p.m. Sunday, June 21, were killed when the 2014 Infinity Q50 they were in left the roadway and struck a tree.

The Bay Minette Police Department issued the following statement at approximately 7 a.m. Monday morning on the Department’s Facebook page:

“Last night three area families were rocked by a tragic vehicle accident that claimed the lives of three young men. We ask our community to wrap their arms around these families and their many friends as they deal with this unimaginable accident. We here at the Bay Minette Police Department are deeply saddened by the loss of members of our community.”

The three have since been identified as “friends since childhood,” Matthew “Blayne” Shackelford, 17, of Bay Minette, a recent graduate of Baldwin County High School, James Tyler “Ty” Drinkard, 15, of Perdido, who was a sophomore at BCHS, and John Avery Blackmon, 17, of Spanish Fort, a recent graduate of Spanish Fort High School and was set to attend the University of Alabama in the fall.

“Another tremendously sad day in our community with the tragic loss of these young men,” according to a post on the Facebook page Tiger Nation: Pride of Baldwin County, a community support page for students, parents and alumni of BCHS. “Please pray for the families of Ty Drinkard, Blayne Shackelford and John Blackmon …. Keep them uplifted for strength and comfort during this time and days to come.”

The post was shared on the Baldwin County Public School System Facebook page, with the statement:

“PRAYERS. THE BCPSS family lost three young men last night in a tragic accident,” according to the post. “Please keep their loved ones in your thoughts during this time and going forward as they try to cope with their unimaginable loss.”

There was also an outpouring of support on the Spanish Fort High School and Spanish Fort Football Facebook pages after the following statement was posted on Monday:

“The Toro family would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of John Avery Blackmon, who tragically lost his life last night along with two students from our neighboring BCHS. John was a 2020 graduate and one of our very own over the years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families as we grieve this loss with you.”

Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler sent out a message to parents on Tuesday, which was also posted on the BCPSS and Tiger Nation Facebook page.

“While I did not know these students, what I have read and learned from those who did, makes this even more heartbreaking,” he wrote. “I know their families are hurting as are their friends, classmates, teachers and principals.”

Tyler’s son, Forrest Little, a graduate of Fairhope High School, was killed in a car accident in Eufaula in 2013.

“I unfortunately know the dark, deep feeling which comes with the sudden loss of a child,” he wrote. “It is a feeling that never goes away and is something I would never wish upon anyone. I hope you will join me in lifting up our thoughts and prayers for these families as they go through such a difficult experience.

“Parents - hug your child today. I can tell you first-hand that you never know when it may be your last opportunity to do so. Tell them that you love them. Tell them that their school system loves them. Tell them that while they may feel invincible, they are not.”

Tyler also included a message for parents leading up to the Fourth of July holiday next week.

“I would ask that you talk to your children who may be of driving age, or riding with other teenagers who are. Please remind them about the importance of road safety. Including keeping their hands on the wheel, not holding their phone, texting or making phone calls. Remind them that other drivers can be distracted, under the influence or driving dangerously. As a driver, or a passenger, remind them that they need to do their part to be safe and to watch out for others to ensure their own safety.”

Baldwin County High School Principal Craig Smith issued a statement on Monday, stating that Shackelford and Drinkard, “Both had personalities and a drive that made them successful in everything they did and enjoyable to spend time with.”

Smith stated that Shackelford and Drinkard were both student athletes and were highly thought of among their peers and teachers.

Shackelford was a standout member of the BCHS golf and fishing teams, he said.

Drinkard was a sophomore member of the BCHS baseball team and was on his way back to play status after an accident cut last season short.

“Ty has been a ball player from the time he could walk and was always exciting to watch,” Smith said. “Both Ty and Blayne were always quick to smile and fun to be around. They not only didn’t meet a stranger, they never failed to make a friend. They were amazing young men and they will be truly missed.

“Both are from deep rooted North Baldwin families and our thoughts and prayers are with these families as they deal with this devastating loss.”

A Go Fund Me page titled “Support for Families of Baldwin Teens” raised more than $17,000 in just one day after going live.

Alabama State Troopers continue to investigate the cause of the crash.