School copes with loss of first grader

NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - Students and teachers at Brinson Elementary School in New Bern are mourning the loss of first grade student Alanna Garris, who was killed last week in a DWI accident. Alanna, 6, was killed when her mother hit another car head-on on Brices Creek Road in New Bern.

"Her smile will be missed," Marisa Drabek, Alanna's first grade teacher, said. "She had such a great personality."

Drabek said Alanna loved to read and be with her friends. She said Alanna was voted "most caring" among her classmates.

"She had a knack for knowing just when someone needed an extra special hug," Drabek said. "That is something I will definitely miss from her."

The school has had counselors on hand to help students cope with the death, Drabek said.

"The first day it was a little more 'I think she's absent,' I don't know if it really hit him," she said.

 The mother, Amber Sandvig, 24, is charged with DWI in the wreck. Alanna's grandmother, Joyce Taylor, said there were problems with Alanna's attendance at school. Taylor also said the school recently contacted the department of social services.

School officials could not comment on if there was a concern about Alanna's home life. Instead, they said they want to remember the positive things about Alanna.

Drabek remembers her last goodbye to Alanna at school on Friday, just hours before the accident happened.

"Every time they walk out of my classroom you can either give a high five or a hug. And that's how we ended it.. With me giving her a hug."

Drabek said the school will plant a Japanese blossom tree in Alanna's honor. The school also plans to dedicate the yearbook to Alanna, as well as wear pink ribbons in honor of her favorite color.

A family member tells NewsChannel 12 Alanna's viewing and funeral are set for Monday and Tuesday at Cotton Funeral Home in New Bern.

According to family members, Alanna's mother, Amber Sandvig, remains in the hospital. Her two-year-old son, Alan "Blaze" Garris is released from the hospital, but was taken into foster care Tuesday, according to the family.

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