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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Cave City teen dies in wreck at Batesville

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Steven Lionel Lopez
The Cave City community is mourning the loss of 18-year-old Steven Lionel Lopez.

Lopez, a senior at Cave City High School, died Sept. 21 in a three-vehicle wreck in Batesville.

"He was a great kid," said Cave City Superintendent Steve Green. "He was really quiet and really reserved. Lionel was a kind person and just a good friend."

The school district dismissed classes early Sept. 25 for Lopez's memorial service. Green said a great number of students and faculty attended the service.

"He was really well thought of by our whole student body and our faculty as well," Green said.

Since Lopez's death, the students are taking things day by day.

"It's tough," said high school counselor Vickie Green. "They're having to grow up quick. He (Lopez) was very well liked."

Vickie Green worked with the students to give Lopez's family a special gift.

The students prepared a scrapbook with photos and stories about Lopez. Then they presented it to his family. Vickie Green said making the book was therapeutic to the students.

"It seems to be something the family likes to have, and the kids want to do something to help," she said.

Superintendent Green said he remembers driving the school bus Lopez rode years ago when he was in elementary school.

"He had a smile that would reach from ear to ear," he said.

Lopez wasn't involved in many extracurricular activities, Green said. Instead, he worked as often as he could at the local Sonic Drive-In.

"They (Sonic) thought the world of him," Green said. "They knew, like we did, that Lionel was definitely going places."

Sonic managing partner Randy Hodges said he knew there was something special about Lopez the moment he met him.

"I've worked with a lot of people in the last few years and there was something about him," he said. "He was just a cut above."

Hodges said Lopez began working at Sonic in April of this year and had potential to move up the corporate ladder with the store.

"He was really excited about the possibility of moving up,"?he said. "We had several talks about it."

Hodges said the news of Lopez's death hit his employees and the community hard.

"He was very unassuming. What made him so unique was just Lionel being Lionel," he said.

Hodges said Lopez was loyal and a man of his word. He hopes other young adults use Lopez as an example "of how people should be and how they should conduct themselves."

The school staff is now concerned about Lopez's little brother who is in fifth grade.

"His mother told me Lionel was his best friend. He just adored Lionel," Green said.

According to a report from Arkansas State Trooper David Jones, Lopez was driving a 1995 Nissan Maxima south on Highway 167 near the intersection with St. Louis Street in Batesville around 7:39 p.m. when the car crossed into the northbound lane and struck a 1994 Ford pickup driven by Randy L. Swafford, 49, of Mountain View.

Swafford's pickup was then struck in the rear by a northbound 1993 Mercury Villager driven by Ruben V. Howellwell, 18, of Floral, Jones said.

Howellwell and Swafford were both transported to White River Medical Center. Swafford was then flown to the Memphis Trauma Center, Jones said. Howellwell's passenger, Atla M. Clem, 46, of Cave City was not injured in the wreck.

Howellwell, Swafford and Clem were wearing seatbelts at the time of the wreck. Lopez was not, Jones said.

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