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'My God, no one was wearing their seat belts,' says mom of college student killed

PHOTO COURTESY BOXLIFE CROSSFIT 
 Erika Larson
PHOTO COURTESY BOXLIFE CROSSFIT Erika Larson

OCEAN SPRINGS -- Family and friends are mourning the loss of two Ocean Springs women killed Sunday in a two-car crash on Interstate 10 near Mobile.

Sarah Rushing, 20, and Erika Larson, 18, were students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Rushing's mother, Kim Rushing, said they were not wearing their seat belts.

"My God, no one was wearing their seat belts," she said. "Why weren't they wearing them? We don't know that things could have turned out differently, but what if they had just because they were wearing their seat belts?"

She said she had met with her daughter's friends to encourage them to buckle up.

"We told them to do a 'Sarah check' -- please make sure you are wearing your seat belts," she said.

A heart full of love

Sarah Rushing was a 2014 graduate of St. Martin High School. Kim Rushing said she will miss her daughter's smile.

"Sarah had such a beautiful smile and beautiful eyes," she said. "She had such a big heart -- if she loved something, she loved it 100 percent, like the way she cared for her friends."

She said Sarah Rushing lost her father about nine years ago and her grandmother died in 2015.

"She had such a tough time with their deaths and she missed them so much," Kim Rushing said. "The only comfort I can find in this is that my sweet girl is in heaven with her daddy and her Mamaw because she missed them so much."

Services for Sarah Rushing will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs.

Her survivors include her mother, Kim Rushing; brother, Shawn "Shawnee" Rushing; DaDa, Marshall Anderson; PawPaw; Aunt Kelly and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and countless friends.

The Ocean Springs Chapel of Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

A powerful, humble athlete

Laura Pylate of Boxlife CrossFit said Larson's death has left a void in the community.

Pylate said she had been Larson's coach and friend for about a year.

"She was a quiet but powerful athlete and she was determined, with a great sense of humility," she said. "Erika underestimated her ability, but always listened to her coaches and proved herself in the gym."

Since the age of 8, Larson trained as a gymnast with Dreamworks in Ocean Springs. Pylate said she was a very skilled gymnast.

"Her gymnastic skills in the gym were untouchable by any other coaches or athletes," she said. "It was not uncommon for our coaches to challenge her to gymnastic movements we commonly use in CrossFit, only to be (outdone) by her time and time again."

She said Larson's presence will be greatly missed.

"She was a vital part of our community and was family to us," she said.

Larson was a 2015 graduate of Ocean Springs High School.

She is survived by her parents, Stacey and Craig Larson of Ocean Springs; cousin Zoey Newkirk and her dear friends Stacy and Tre.

Riemann Family Funeral Home in Ocean Springs is in charge of the services.

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