The young pageant queen from Minden's wish was to
give life should hers end prematurely.
Hannah McFarland, 19, the reigning Miss Minden, wanted to donate
her organs to help others. Her mom, Kim McFarland, said Monday that
she upheld Hannah's wishes after learning about Hannah's death,
which occurred Monday morning.
"That way, something good
will come of this," the mother said. McFarland died Monday in
Ruston. She was thrown from a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by
18-year-old Bossier City native Rachel Cockrell after the vehicle
struck the side of a Kansas City Southern train on Maple Street,
according to a Ruston Police report.
After the collision, which occurred at about 6:30 a.m., McFarland
was taken by ambulance to North Louisiana Medical Center, where she
was pronounced dead after arrival.
Cockrell was also taken to the medical center, where she was
treated for numerous non-life-threatening injuries.
Cockrell was probably taking Hannah back to her waitress job at
Mom's Diner in Minden. Hannah was supposed to be at work at 7 a.m.
Monday and had left her car in the restaurant parking lot overnight.
"We all expected her to walk in here and say, 'I'm sorry I
overslept'," said Carolyn Gates, who owns the diner with her
husband, Jerry. "It's been a hard day. We're grieving."
The railroad crossing is marked by flashing lights and signs but
not by crossing arms. Three other collisions have occurred at the
crossing since 1999. Two in 2006 resulted in injuries, according to
an accident history report by the Federal Railroad Authority Office
Cockrell told police that she didn't see any warning lights and
heard no horn from the train before the collision.
The driver of the train, Torrish Pearson of Gibsland, told
officers that he could see active crossing lights when he approached
the crossing and that he blew the train's warning whistle.
Gates and workers at Mom's Diner learned about the accident from
a casual comment made by a radio announcer during a routine call to
the restaurant Monday morning.
"I called her my baby," said Patty Webb, a cook at Mom's Diner.
"She was such a sweet, respectful young lady. She had a lot of
potential, a lot of goals set in her head."
Hannah, the middle child of three, volunteered with Habitat for
Humanity and the yearly fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital. She was a standout softball player in high school and even
tried out boxing. She retired from that sport after winning her
first and only match.
Miss Louisiana Organization Executive Director Dewana Little said
McFarland's first year competing at Miss Louisiana was notable.
"She was a bright spot," Little said. "We were looking forward to
having her back next year."
McFarland, who was planning to attend Louisiana Tech University
this fall, told Little after the pageant that she'd had fun, but the
experience she'd gained and friends she'd made were worth more.
"She was a happy, excited young woman," Little said. "It was two
weeks ago that she was introducing herself at orientation for Miss
Miss Louisiana 2006 Jamie Wilson, who shares McFarland's
hometown, said she emceed the Miss Minden pageant McFarland won this
"It's just very shocking at this point for everyone," Wilson said
Monday. "It's difficult for me, all of the contestants and the Miss
Dance instructor Marie Wise, who worked with both McFarland and
Wilson, called Monday's wreck a tragedy.
"Hannah was one of these girls who works extremely hard," Wise
said. Holding down a job to fund her costume and dance instruction,
pursuing nursing and honing her talent for Miss Louisiana stretched
McFarland thin, Wise said.
"She was just nonstop trying to get ready" for the competition
this month, Wise said.
Darris Waren, vice president of the Miss Louisiana Organization,
called McFarland a "true pleasure" to work with.
"She will truly be missed by our organization," Waren said. "Our
prayers go out to Hannah's family during this difficult time."
Wise said McFarland was chasing the title because it would help
her further her education.
It's unknown if McFarland or Cockrell were wearing seat belts at
the time of the wreck, and the incident remained under investigation
by the Ruston Police Department.
McFarland graduated from Minden High School in 2006.
She had completed a year at Bossier Parish Community College and
was expected to attend Louisiana Tech University this fall and major
Funeral arrangements were pending Monday.