North Medford High School students take a moment to mourn their classmate Brittany Scott, who died May 11 from injuries sustained in an April crash near Creswell. - Bob Pennell

A Life Lighter Than Air

Despite leading a life filled with tragedy, 17-year-old Brittany Scott was known for cheering up others on the North Medford High School campus.

"You could be in the worst mood," said junior Natasha Rarick, "she would walk up to you with a gorgeous smile and start dancing and singing. You couldn't help but laugh."

On the cusp of graduation, Brittany's life was cut short May 11 by an infection that resulted from injuries sustained in an April crash on Interstate 5 near Creswell.

Brittany and North Medford senior Kay Severson were traveling north on Interstate 5 to Portland at about 4 p.m. April 18 for an orthodontist appointment when Severson lost control of her Saturn lon during heavy rainfall and hail.

The car spun around three times and struck a tree about 50 feet from Interstate 5, causing Brittany major head injuries. She was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene. Severson sustained minor injuries.

No drugs or alcohol were involved, Oregon State Police said.

At the time of the crash, Brittany had crawled into the back seat of the car to secure a loose piece of plastic used to seal a broken window and was not wearing a seat belt.

Brittany was in a coma for about three weeks. She had come out of the coma about a week before her death when she contracted the infection. The cause of the infection was undetermined, said her foster father, Javier Lopez.

"She was smiling and doing other things on command but she was unable to speak," Lopez said.

Since childhood, Brittany had lived in several foster homes before moving in with Lopez and his wife, Monica, of Medford, two years ago.

Brittany grappled with emotional turmoil over the misfortunes she had endured, including being removed by Child Protective Services from the home of her mother and being separated from two sisters and a brother.

In July 1998, her older sister, Blythe Nicole "Nicci" Scott, at age 14 was struck and killed by a car while riding her bike.

Despite the problems, Brittany was full of life, enthusiasm and concern for others, her friends said.

"She always lived her life to the fullest," Natasha said.

On a daily basis, she lavished her foster parents, peers and school staff members with smiles, humor and affection, her friend said.

In school, she pursued her passions, including choir and drawing.

For Javier Lopez' birthday in December, Brittany drew a picture of herself as a 9-year-old child. The caption said, "Daddy's little girl."

"All she ever wanted in life was a family to love her unconditionally," Javier Lopez said. "She said she found that with us."

On her MySpace profile where she was asked to name her heroes, she wrote on April 11, "I'm adopted so it would have to be my Mom and Dad. Without them, I don't know where I would be."

The Lopezes had started paperwork to adopt her prior to the crash.

"It was an absolute blessing to find that," Javier Lopez said. "She wrote it just a week before her accident."

In the 2005-06 school year, Brittany made the Honor Roll at North Medford.

Near the time of her death, she talked about possibly pursuing a career as a dance teacher for little children, said her friend, North Medford sophomore Dava Tresch.

"She could have gotten so far in life because she was so smart and bright," Dava said.

Her friends and classmates paid tribute to her at a North Medford carnival Friday by wearing green clothes, her favorite color, and releasing four dozen green balloons in the sky.

Scribbled on the balloons were messages such as "Keep on dancing."

Students also wrote messages on a scroll surrounded by photos of her.

Dava, one of Brittany's closest friends, wrote, "Snap Your Fingers," referring to a song by Little John that Brittany loved.

"When my mom was driving us somewhere, Brittany would dance to the radio in the back seat," Dava said.

Embracing each other and crying, the students stood silent and watched the balloons until they disappeared.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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