Photo provided
This photo of Hamilton Heights High School senior Kalen Hart and her prom date, Cathedral High School junior Lendon Byram of Noblesville, was taken Saturday afternoon before they were both tragically killed in a crash on the way to Heights’ prom. This photo was posted on Facebook.
Photo provided This photo of Hamilton Heights High School senior Kalen Hart and her prom date, Cathedral High School junior Lendon Byram of Noblesville, was taken Saturday afternoon before they were both tragically killed in a crash on the way to Heights’ prom. This photo was posted on Facebook.
Prom is supposed to be a night to celebrate, a night to remember.
Hamilton Heights High School junior and senior students will remember their 2021 prom night but sadly because of a tragedy.
Prom was canceled Saturday night after two students were killed in a crash on the way to Heights’ prom in Kokomo.
Not only the families are mourning their loss but our entire community is mourning their loss.
Losing a child in a car accident is a parent’s worst nightmare. Our hearts are breaking for these families.
Just minutes earlier, these prom dates were dressed in their formalwear, smiling and laughing, posing for photos, and looking forward to prom night.
After a school year that had been taken from our students by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a year of canceled events, Hamilton Heights juniors and seniors and their dates were finally getting to go to prom, anticipating this special night like no other.
Then tragedy struck.
A Honda Accord, with four teens in it, headed for prom, was traveling northbound on Lacy Road in Arcadia, in northern Hamilton County, at about 5:15 p.m., when a sport utility vehicle (also driven by a teen headed to prom) was traveling east on 281st Street.
The car had a stop sign at Lacy Road. The SUV did not have a stop sign at 281st Street. The SUV T-boned the car. Both vehicles ended up in a nearby field.
Lendon Byram of Noblesville, a Cathedral High School junior who was recently inducted into National Honor Society and expected to graduate in 2022, was driving the car. His prom date was girlfriend Kalen Hart, a Hamilton Heights senior and a front-seat passenger.
Both died at the scene.
The two had been dating since the beginning of 2021 and were looking forward to prom.
Earlier that day, Kalen and her friend, Alyssa, who was also in the car during the crash, did each other’s makeup at Kalen’s house, according to a news story shared by WTHR, a media partner of The Times. Then they went to get their hair done by Lendon Byram’s aunt, a hairstylist. The teens took photos and stopped at Kalen’s father’s house before leaving for the next stop, which was to see Kalen’s mom, Jody Conaway.
“I didn’t even get to see my baby girl in her prom dress,” Conaway posted on Facebook with a photo of her daughter and boyfriend, known at school for his “wild crazy hair.” The mom said she never got to see her daughter in person, in her prom dress with hair and makeup all done. The teens were headed to Conaway’s house to take more photos before going on to prom but never made it to her house, due to the crash.
Thousands of thoughts and prayers have flowed in on Facebook and Twitter for the families.
“I am both humbled and overwhelmed with the outpouring of love for my baby girl,” Jody Conaway posted on Facebook on Sunday. She started a Facebook fundraiser to help pay for funeral and burial expenses, with a goal of $15,000. “Please help us as we struggle to come to grips with burying our baby,” she said in her fundraiser plea. Before midnight Sunday, her goal was surpassed and more than $18,000 had already been donated by 309 people.
Charla Grimes, Kalen’s aunt, posted this: “For those of you who didn't know Kalen, she was very smart and funny, kind and loving, a master of the stare down and so tiny she could still, at 18, almost fit in one's pocket. If you got to hear her laugh it felt like you had been given a gift.”
Kalen had planned to attend Indiana University Kokomo.
The two students in the back seat of the car were transported to St. Vincent Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.
The driver of the SUV declined medical assistance.
Ryan McClain, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputy and public information officer, said drugs or alcohol are not believed to have been a factor. The accident is still under investigation.
Cathedral High School had counselors and members of the faith-based community on the athletic and football practice field Sunday afternoon to gather, grieve and pray. Byram was on the speech and debate team at Cathedral and had qualified to go to nationals in June.
Upon learning of the tragedy, families of Hamilton Heights junior and senior high school students were notified of the accident, and a crisis support team of grief counselors and representatives from local faith-based organizations were assembled and available at the prom venue, the Elite Banquet Center in Kokomo, and also at Hamilton Heights High School Media Center. They were available Saturday at the school until 11 p.m. After-prom activities at Bowl 32 in Noblesville were also canceled.
Hamilton Heights also had counselors and support staff at the high school on Sunday afternoon and extra staff at school on Monday. A prayer vigil took place Sunday evening at United Family Wesleyan Church in Cicero.
“We share our heartfelt condolences to the families of the students impacted by this tragedy,” said Hamilton Heights Superintendent Dr. Derek Arrowood in a letter to student families and the media over the weekend. “No one expects something like this to happen, and when it does, it leaves an entire community grieving. Please keep these families and our students in your thoughts and prayers.”
Hamilton Heights Schools on Sunday emailed the following letter, a collaborative effort from Arrowood and the district, to school families:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own, senior Kalen Hart, and her prom date, Lendon Byram, due to injuries sustained in a traffic accident yesterday. This is an unimaginable loss for these families and our school community.
Our focus right now, as a district, is to provide support to students, staff members, and families during the difficult days and weeks ahead. School counselors and support staff will be available to meet with students and their families this afternoon between 2 and 5 p.m. at the high school media center to help with the grief, coping, and the healing process, as well as provide additional resources.
When we return to school tomorrow, we will follow the regular class schedule with extra staff available throughout the day to help students during this difficult time. For students on the virtual schedule, please do not hesitate to contact the guidance office or come into the school for needed support.
Meanwhile, we encourage our families to stay close, connected, and to be aware of the signs of grief, which can produce an array of painful feelings, emotions, and/or behaviors. Grief is personal and everyone experiences and processes loss and trauma differently. Should you or your children need extra support in coping with this tragic event, please do not hesitate to reach out to our school counselors, or to the many resources available in the community. Students may also use the school’s Quick Tip link if they are struggling. A link to helpful information for parents or other caregivers from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was shared with parents.
Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families and friends of these young students.”
I can’t fathom the pain felt by these families. There is nothing greater than a parent’s love for a child.
But the community will help these families heal.
Funeral services for Kalen Hart will be at 1 p.m. Friday, with visitation from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, at Randall & Roberts Funeral Center on Westfield Road in Noblesville. Burial will be in Cicero Cemetery. Funeral services for Lendon Byram will be at 10 a.m. Saturday and visitation from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Cicero Christian Church, with arrangements handled by Hartley Funeral Homes Cicero Chapel. Read the full obituaries in Wednesday’s print edition of The Times and online at

-Contact Betsy Reason at Noblesville High School’s senior prom will be this weekend with yard games, food, dancing and masks, at an open-air venue outside of the county, and only seniors may attend due to the pandemic.