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Tragic accident results in loss of life, serious injuries
The community is mourning young lives cut tragically short in an automobile accident Friday evening. According to an Iowa State Patrol report, at approximately 10:30 p.m. Friday, a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Madalynn Stewart, 19, of Maloy, was traveling on 190th Street, a gravel road north of Afton. The report says that the car failed to stop at a stop sign entering Highway 34 where it was struck on the driver’s side by a Ford F350 pickup driven by Andy Merritt, 59, of Seymour. Both vehicles came to rest in the north ditch.
A passenger of the Malibu, Halsie Barnes, 19, of Tingley, was pronounced dead at the scene. Halsie is the daughter of Tracy and Shannon Barnes of Tingley. She graduated from MACS in 2022 and had just completed her first year on the SWCC softball team, earning a spot on the second team, all-region.
During Halsie’s career as a Raiderette, they made three state softball tournament appearances. Her senior year, Halsie was named 1st team all-conference, 1st team all-district and 3rd team all-state.
During high school, Barnes was named academic all-conference for basketball and volleyball and academic all-conference honorable mention for softball, as well as second-team all-conference for softball and honorable mention all-conference for volleyball. She was a member of the National Honor Society and had been named multiple semesters to the A Honor Roll. She served as vice president for Student Council, a class officer, and SOS president. She has been a part of Raider Vision and FCA.
In an online posting by the SWCC softball coaches they said, “Halsie was the light and spirit of our team,” “Her presence at Southwestern next year will be missed greatly. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and teammates.”
Visitation for Halsie Barnes will be held at the First Christian Church in Mount Ayr on Friday, July 28; open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the family present at the church from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at the Mount Ayr High School Gymnasium. Burial will follow in Maple Row Cemetery at Kellerton.
Other passengers in the automobile included Abigail Barnes, 20, of Lamoni and Ella Leonard, 19, of Winterset. All were transported from the scene to Methodist Hospital in Des Moines where they were in critical condition. Leonard died on Sunday from injuries sustained in the crash.
Also in critical condition, Stewart was transported by Mercy Helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. At this time, there is no update on the condition of Abigail or Stewart.
Stewart is the daughter of Kevin and Ashley Stewart and Josh and Julie Shields. Madalynn is a current student at Southwestern Community College in pursuit of a degree in nursing. She graduated in the Mount Ayr High School class of 2022, and had the honor of being the 2021 homecoming queen, the 2022 Ringgold County Fair Rodeo Queen, and received IATC Academic All State Honors with a GPA above 3.8.
Stewart just completed her freshman season on the SWCC women’s basketball team. Stewart was a four-year member of the Sparks drill team, as well as a cheerleader. She was selected to perform for the 4A Girls State Basketball Tournament. Stewart also played softball for two of her four years in high school. In addition, Stewart ran track, played volleyball and basketball, and was the high scorer at the IA Girls Coaches Association All Star game.
Abigail Barnes graduated from MACS in 2020 and is currently attending Graceland University in Lamoni where she plays on the softball team and earned All-American honors. Abigail is majoring in Physical Therapy. Her parents are Travis and Tessa Barnes of Lamoni.
While at MACS Abigail participated in volleyball, for one year, track for two years, softball for four years, drama for three years, speech for four years, and FFA for three years. Her many honors include National Honor Society, All Conference Softball, All Academic Softball, All State Softball, Academic Excellence Award, and the A honor Roll Award. She was voted Homecoming Queen her senior year.
Leonard was a graduate of Winterset High School and was a member of the 2022/23 SWCC Spartan dance team, the first to earn trophies at the national competition. She is the daughter David and Nikki Leonard, and the niece of Kisha (Darren) Martin. Leonard planned to join her cousin, Ryann Martin, in instructing dance classes at Ryann’s Dance Academy (RDA).
Merritt and his passenger, Julia Merritt, 62, of Seymour, were both injured and transported by a relative to their residence.
Andy Merritt was not wearing a seatbelt, nor were any of the women in the Malibu. Both vehicles were towed from the scene. The accident investigation is ongoing. Union County Sheriff’s Office, Creston Police Department, Union County EMS, Afton Fire Department and Clarke County EMS assisted Iowa State Patrol at the scene.
On Monday morning, counselors were available at the Mount Ayr school library for those seeking support. A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday evening at the SWCC softball field to honor the deceased. Pastors and counselors were available.