Forty-eight hours before her death, Jocelyn Phillips had a great day with her mother.
The 16-year-old needed supplies for a Valentine’s Day gift for her boyfriend, so on Feb. 12 Pam Phillips drove her daughter to the Walmart in Paoli, Indiana. It was “like Black Friday,” Pam would later say. The place boiled with shoppers panic-buying groceries before a snowstorm rolled in. And since Pam had a COVID vaccine scheduled, Jocelyn would have to brave the crowd alone.
That was no small feat. Jocelyn suffered from serious anxiety that made it tough to even go to school. Once she turned 17, she planned to start the process of getting her GED.
But that day, she conquered the task with ease.
“She did it all by herself, and I got to tell her how proud I was of her. Because that was major for her,” Pam said. “You know, we just had a good time laughing. When I left her, she was sitting on my living room floor, crafting.”
That was the last time the two would ever see each other.
About 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Jocelyn was riding with three other teenagers when their 2006 Pontiac lost control and flipped several times on a country road outside Orleans. Jocelyn and her friend, 15-year-old Springs Valley sophomore Kyndell Bailey, died on scene. The others survived. Indiana State Police are investigating the crash.
In an interview with WDRB, two of Kyndell’s sisters described her as a beloved girl who was crazy about art. She even secretly tattooed one of her own drawings on her skin. It was a uniqueness she shared with Jocelyn and the rest of their tight circle of friends.
And on Sunday, that circle will get a little wider.
NASCAR driver and Indiana native Chase Briscoe will emblazon the girls’ names on his car during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. A decal reading “Remembering Kyndell Bailey Jocelyn Phillips” will shine below the driver’s side window.
Briscoe grew up in Mitchell, a small town the next county over from the girls. He got his start tearing through Indiana’s dirt tracks, including Tri-State Motor Speedway in Haubstadt, before climbing through NASCAR and making his Cup Series debut at this year’s Daytona 500 – the same day Kyndell and Jocelyn died.
Kirsten Bailey-Lord, Kyndell’s older sister and one of six siblings, said the connection to Briscoe started with her dad, who “poured his heart out” in a comment on the Facebook page of Tony Stewart – one of the owners of Briscoe’s Stewart-Haas Racing Team.
Kirsten posted about it and the rest of the family shared it. And since the Baileys have a racing background, it turned out one of her cousins was a friend of Briscoe’s. Within days, Chase sent the family a video message.
“I know there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome or make you guys feel any better,” Briscoe said in the video, which was later posted to an in-memoriam Facebook page for Jocelyn. “But I just wanted you to know Kyndell will be on the car this weekend, and hopefully we can give it a good run.”
Pam Phillips was driving back from Indianapolis on Feb. 14 when her phone started ringing.
She had spent the last couple days visiting her dad in the hospital, and since snow was already falling, she ignored the calls and focused on the road. It wasn’t until she wheeled into Mitchell that one of Jocelyn’s friends’ mothers finally got hold of her.
There had been an accident, the woman said. And Jocelyn wasn’t answering her phone.
After calling around, Pam got the address of the wreck and headed to the scene. What she saw shocked her. The car had “barrel-rolled” several feet from the road, landing upside down in a snow-strewn field. Looking at it, she wondered how anyone survived.
As soon as they saw her coming, police pulled her aside and broke the news.
“I have moments where I’m OK,” she said four days later. “And I have moments where it literally hurts to breathe.”
One solace has been all the stories friends…