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American teenager killed in Yongsan crash was a high school sophomore

Tributes to an American student who died last week in a vehicle accident are seen outside Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 13, 2018

An American teenager killed in a car crash en route to her brother’s high school graduation ceremony at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul was a sophomore and loved to play tennis and travel, her family said Wednesday.

Christie Gagnet died Saturday after the car in which she was riding collided with a motorcycle outside Gate 13, which is the main visitors’ entrance at the sprawling U.S. military base in Seoul. She was 15.

The South Korean motorcycle driver also was killed as both vehicles burst into flames. Officials declined to comment on the cause of the crash, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Christie’s father, Michael Stuart Gagnet, a retired veteran who served more than 20 years in the Army Medical Corps, was seriously injured in the crash.

“We lost our beloved Christie on a day that should have been filled with nothing but celebration,” the family said in a statement provided to Stars and Stripes. “We are devastated beyond explanation.”

Christie Gagnet, a sophomore at Yongsan’s Seoul American High School, was recently inducted into the National Honor Society and aspired to attend the University of Texas, her family said. She played on the high school tennis team and enjoyed music and travel.

Bouquets of flowers, candles and notes both in English and Korean were left as a memorial along the gate’s wall just feet from the crash. People were still leaving mementos on Wednesday.

“While there is nothing we can do to bring Christie back, we will forever cherish her kind spirit and infectious optimism that she evoked,” the family’s statement said.

“We are grateful to everyone who has provided love and support — from the Good Samaritan on scene and first responders to the school and our Army family of one,” it added.

Michael Gagnet, 56, remained hospitalized and was in critical but stable condition.

Gagnet is a civilian physician’s assistant with the Yongsan Soldier Centered Medical Home, according to 65th Medical Brigade spokesman William Wight. The clinic is due to close later this month as part of the relocation of most U.S. forces south of Seoul.

“While Mike’s challenges to recovery seem insurmountable for now, he is also a courageous man who we know will persevere,” the family said. “We ask that you continue to keep the Gagnet family in your thoughts and prayers.”

The Gagnets were headed to the SAHS graduation ceremony, which was held Saturday at the Collier Field House at Yongsan. One of Christie’s brothers was in the class of 2018.

News of the tragedy devastated the tight-knit community. Many students and others gathered later Saturday at a chapel on post to console one another and grieve.

“As we bring another successful school year to a close filled with academic, personal, and professional accomplishments, we have also been touched by the tragic and untimely passing of one of our finest students,” Principal Donald “Willy” Williams said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

The school also set up a dedicated space as a memorial for the students and was offering counselors for those in need of assistance, according to Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific.

Christie is survived by her mother and father and two brothers, although the family declined to provide other names. Funeral details were not available.

Stars and Stripes correspondent Marcus Fichtl contributed to this report.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

 

A woman leaves a flower at a memorial for Christie Gagnet, 15, outside Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 13, 2018.
MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

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