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Joyous day turned tragic. After ceremony, KY graduate injured, parents killed in crash

Shortly after Dalton Barnett graduated from Fleming County High School in a ceremony Saturday, he was a passenger in a crash that killed his parents and injured him and his brother.

Fleming County High School principal Stephanie Emmons asked for thoughts and prayers for Barnett, a member of the Class of 2020. In a letter posted on social media, she asked people to “uplift this family.”

“There was a car accident involving he and his family shortly after his graduation ceremony,” Emmons wrote. “We have learned that his mother, Nancy Barnett, and his father, Lyndon Barnett, both passed away as a result of the accident.”

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Dalton Barnett and his brother were taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington for treatment, Emmons said. Dalton Barnett is 18 years old and his brother, Michael Barnett, is 26 years old, according to Kentucky State Police in Morehead.

“John Dalton Barnett, or as we call him at FCHS, Dalton, is a sweet young man who has plans to go into the military,” Emmons and Fleming Superintendent Brian Creasman said in a joint statement Sunday. “He is always a joy to be around and his family has always been very proud of him.”

Dalton Barnett’s parents were both excited to watch him walk across the stage and graduate Saturday, Emmons and Creasman said. His mother, Nancy Barnett, wore a shirt to the graduation that said “Senior Mom: Some people wait their entire lives to meet their inspiration. I raised mine. Class of 2020.”

“This speaks volumes to the kind of mother Nancy was and to the Barnetts and how proud they were of their family,” Emmons and Creasman said. “The Barnetts mean a lot to our Fleming County Community and we will be here to support Dalton and his brother as they face the difficult times ahead.”

Gov. Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown and other officials around the state reached out to Fleming County Schools to offer prayers and assistance, Emmons and Creasman said.

“Our faith tells us to hold strong and provide comfort to those in need, pain, and during loss of loved ones,” Emmons and Creasman said. “This is precisely the time that we must be strong for Dalton and his brother.”

Emmons’ initial Facebook post resulted in more than 260 comments by Sunday morning. Some comments were from people in other states, including Shannon Carpenter who said her friends in northern Kentucky shared the post and she was praying for the family “all the way from Georgia.”

“A day that was supposed to be filled with joy turned into a devastating tragedy,” said Carpenter. “They definitely need prayers from around the country.”

Allison Slone, the moderator for the Facebook group Kentucky Teachers in the Know, said in a post: “Please pray for our Fleming County family of colleagues, their graduating class, and this family who are all hurting, trying to understand, and answer the ‘why’. What was a tough enough situation quickly became a devastating one for their school.”

The high school in Flemingsburg held a 12-hour graduation event Saturday that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was closed to the public and implemented social distancing. The district allowed only one senior and a maximum of six family members to be on campus at a specific time, beginning Saturday morning. The first student graduated shortly before 8 a.m and the last around 9 p.m., according to Facebook posts.

Kentucky State Police said the two vehicle fatal collision occurred at approximately 9:15 a.m. Saturday in Fleming County near the intersection of Ky.-11 and Ky.-599.

A car driven by Nancy Barnett, 53, of Ewing was traveling west on Ky.-599 when she attempted to make a left turn onto Ky.-11 and collided with a pickup truck driving north, police said.

The driver of the truck, Anthony Bailey, 52, and his passenger, Nancy Bailey, did not receive any injuries in the collision, police said.

Nancy Barnett died at the scene of the accident. Lyndon Barnett, 56, died at UK Hospital.

Herald-Leader reporter Morgan Eads contributed to this story.

This story was originally published May 24, 2020 1:40 PM.

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