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May 05. 2013 10:04PM

Manchester teen, Derry accident victim, mourned


Amber Nichols, left, and her daughter, Shayna, 15, both of Derry, bring balloons and a flower windmill to a makeshift memorial outside the Burger King on Route 28 in Derry to honor their friend, Sophia Christen on Sunday. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU UNION LEADER)

DERRY - A chance meeting with an old friend and sticky fingers from cotton candy preceded a pedestrian accident that claimed the life of a Manchester teenager over the weekend, a friend said Sunday.

Derry teenager Shayna Nichols ran into her friend, Sophia Christen, at the local carnival Friday night and shared her $5 cotton candy with Christen and another girl.

Shayna said she stayed at the carnival while the other two went with a third girl to cross Route 28 to wash their hands at a nearby Burger King. Two vehicles struck Christen, 15, and one of the other girls crossing the road about five minutes after leaving Nichols, resulting in fatal injuries to Christen, according to police.

"I thought that it was my fault because it was my food that they were eating, but I realized that it's really nobody's fault," said Nichols, who attended Smyth Road School in Manchester with Christen.

"I thought, about like what if I didn't see her, this wouldn't have happened," Nichols said at a makeshift memorial in front of the Burger King. "But I guess it just happened for a reason."

Derry police said Sunday that no decision had been made on whether to charge the two drivers involved in the accident. The other girl struck, Lauren Gendreau, 13, of Derry, was released from the hospital Saturday.

Sgt. Shawn O'Donaghue said Sunday the girls were coming from the carnival and crossing the street to go to a bathroom, but he didn't have any further details on the investigation.

At the makeshift memorial, friends and strangers left flowers and stuffed animals, sometimes including handwritten messages.

Nichols and her mother, Amber, brought a red flower windmill and several small balloons, one with the message, "I miss you babe" with a heart drawn and signed "Shayna."

Mrs. Nichols said she was surprised she didn't see any police details helping people cross the road when she dropped off her daughter about an hour before the accident.

"I was watching a group of kids cross the street and I was, 'Oh my gosh. This is a really busy street and especially in an event like this that's on the weekend it's going to bring out a lot of people,'" she said.

"That was my first thought and afterwards, I was like 'Oh my God, that could have been my kid,' because she had the opportunity to go with her to wash her hands, so it really touched home for me and then my second thought is why wasn't there a police detail?"

Derry police Sgt. Kevin Jackson said Sunday there were two police officers on a detail at the carnival Friday night.

Mrs. Nichols said she was trying to draw something more pleasant out of a tragic evening.

"She (Christen) had some real good last moments," she said. "I mean she was having a blast is what it sounded like: riding the rides, hanging out with all her friends and eating cotton candy."

Nichols added, "I'm trying to think positively of it. It's a tragic situation, but if I was going to go out, I would have wanted to go out having a blast right beforehand and that's what she was doing and that's how I want to remember it and I'm sure that's how Shayna wants to remember it."

Rebecca Wencek took a break from working at the carnival Sunday to leave a pink and yellow skunk to honor Christen, her fellow Central High schoolmate.

"She always made us laugh," the sophomore said.

Wencek, who is four months pregnant, plans to name her baby Sophia after her friend.

Others who didn't know Christen came as well. That included Celinet Morton of East Derry.

"We're just here to pay our respects. Poor baby," she said. "I'm sure she was a beautiful girl just starting to live her life."

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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