Owls Head teen killed in car crash called ‘phenomenal kid’

Posted June 21, 2011, at 5:37 p.m.
Aleisha Sonksen, 17, of Owls Head, was killed Monday night in a single-vehicle car crash in South Thomaston.
Photo courtesy of Sonksen family
Aleisha Sonksen, 17, of Owls Head, was killed Monday night in a single-vehicle car crash in South Thomaston.

OWLS HEAD, Maine — A teenage girl who was killed Monday night in a car crash in South Thomaston was remembered in her hometown Tuesday as a “phenomenal kid” who was an athlete, scholar and all-around nice person.

Aleisha Sonksen, 17, of Owls Head had just completed her junior year at Camden Hills Regional High School.

Police said speed is likely a factor in the fatal crash on Route 73. Sonksen was the passenger in a two-seat sports car, a 1998 BMW Z3, according to Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland. The driver was a 17-year-old boy from Owls Head whose name is being withheld because of his age. He was treated for minor injuries at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport.

People at the Owls Head General Store, where Sonksen used to work part-time, grew emotional Tuesday when they learned about her death, said owner Martha Luttrell.

“She was probably just the kindest kid you’d ever meet, and she had so much to look forward to,” Luttrell said in a telephone interview, her tears apparent in her voice. “It’s a huge loss to our community.”

Sonksen, the daughter of Joyce Burnham of Owls Head and Marlowe Sonksen of Camden, grew up in the small Knox County town.

Neighbor Kerry Hadley said she had known Aleisha since she was in kindergarten and that the teen had been active in local activities including the Owls Head Variety Show, which Hadley had directed.

“She was just one of those phenomenal kids,” Hadley said. “She was just one of those bright, special people. You could see it in her eyes. They just shone, whenever you were near her.”

Her mother had been traveling in Europe for business at the time of the crash, Hadley said, and was making an emergency return to Maine.

Sonksen had transferred from Rockland District High School to Camden Hills Regional High School before her junior year, Hadley said. At her new high school, she was active on the ski team, according to newspaper reports.

Luttrell described her as a leader, a peacemaker and a person with integrity and compassion who kept her old friends from Owls Head and Rockland even after changing high schools.

“When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it,” Luttrell said. “She was not a kid that ever got into any trouble, ever.”

The teen had been in school gifted and talented programs and had made friends from around the world. It was easy to imagine her heading off to college at Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to her former employer.

“She had such a promising future ahead of her,” Luttrell said. “She just got into the wrong car.”

According to the Maine State Police, the accident is under investigation. The driver was tested for alcohol after the crash, as is mandatory under state law, according to McCausland.

There has not been a decision on whether charges may be lodged against the driver, he said.

Luttrell said the reality of Aleisha’s death is still seeping in.

“I still can’t believe that she’s not going to walk through my door tomorrow,” she said. “We loved Aleisha. She was just a wonderful, wonderful person.”

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