State

Teenage girls who fell from Myrtle Beach hotel were honor students

Two teens died on Wednesday when they fell from a balcony at the Camelot By the Sea Hotel according to Myrtle Beach police reports. Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said those killed were a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl who were both Myrtle Beach High School students. Thursday, April 6, 2017.
Two teens died on Wednesday when they fell from a balcony at the Camelot By the Sea Hotel according to Myrtle Beach police reports. Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said those killed were a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl who were both Myrtle Beach High School students. Thursday, April 6, 2017. jlee@thesunnews.com

Myrtle Beach High School was in mourning one day after two of its students died after falling from a local high-rise hotel Wednesday afternoon.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge identified the two teenage girls as Amber Franco, 17, and Daniela Alejandra Arriaza Flores, 16, both of Myrtle Beach.

Lt. Joey Crosby said police were called about 3:46 p.m. Wednesday and discovered the two deceased teens at the Camelot By the Sea Hotel on North Ocean Boulevard.

“When I found out this morning, my heart just like dropped,” said 15-year-old Alphonso Griffin, a ninth grader at the school. Dani “was always happy. Nothing was ever wrong with her. She always smiled. …”

The news of the deaths hit the school hard Thursday.

“You felt the tension. You felt everything. It’s just like once something happens to a Seahawk member, everybody feels it,” said Jakie Torres, a senior at the school, who was very close with Dani and her family. “Even if you don’t know the person, it still feels bad because they’re part of the Seahawk family.”

Myrtle Beach High School principal John Washburn said he overheard two students talking about Dani on Thursday.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to keep going,” he recalled one saying.

“We will because we have to,” the other replied.

“It was a somber day. It was a challenging day for us as the adults,” he said. “Our teachers were just as devastated by this as our students were. As you can imagine … they become our children.”

Flores was a sophomore at Myrtle Beach High School. She was active in the school’s theater program and took a leading role in a project-based learning class.

“One of the students remarked to me today that not only (was she) just backstage working,” but she was always supporting her fellow classmates in the program, “very positive and very much a leader,” Washburn said.

Franco was a junior and had just moved to the district from another state in November. Torres said she and Dani became fast friends.

Both girls were honor students on pace to graduate and attend college. Prom was coming up on Friday and spring break was just a few days away when police were called to the Camelot By the Sea Hotel.

A preliminary autopsy revealed the teens died of massive trauma from the fall.

“She always used to seem happy so it just shocked me,” Griffin said of Flores. “I didn’t talk to her yesterday. I think … if I had talked to her, I probably could have changed something.”

Police are still investigating what led to the two girls’ deaths. Signs of foul play weren’t immediately present when the investigation began, Crosby said.

Regardless of how it happened, students are now left in shock with more questions than answers in a search for meaning of why the lives of their young friends ended so soon.

No public memorial services have been planned yet, but Torres said they probably will be when students return from spring break.

Dani’s family is taking her sudden death extremely hard, Torres said.

“They still can’t believe what’s going on. The mom is even worse because that was her youngest,” she said.

Dani “tried to help everybody who needed help,” Torres said. “She was an amazing, outgoing person. If you just needed somebody to talk to, she was the person.”

A crisis-response team of additional counselors were at the school Thursday to support or lend an ear to any students or teachers who needed to talk.

“They were available to the students all day today, and they will continue to be available as long as the students need them to be available,” Washburn said. “Myself, my administrative team, along with those counselors and all of their teachers just wanted to make sure the students had an adequate opportunity to grieve, to understand, to talk and we want to continue to give them that opportunity.”

“Our goal for today was to provide as much normalcy for the students as we could.”

The counseling and support was not going to end on Thursday, he said, and school officials plan to continue assisting with the police department’s investigation.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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