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Savannah State athlete from north Georgia dies while evacuating ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Karissa Tatum was heading home to north Georgia when her car hydroplaned on Interstate 16 and struck a tree.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Family and friends of a 21-year-old Savannah State University volleyball player from Walker County are in mourning after she was killed in a wreck while evacuating ahead of Hurricane Dorian last weekend.

Karissa Tatum was a premier athlete at Lafayette High School and after she graduated, she received the opportunity to join Savannah State's team.

According to Savannah station WSAV, Tatum and some friends were driving home to Lafayette on Sunday ahead of the pending hurricane when Tatum's car hydroplaned on I-16 and struck a tree.

She later died at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah.

"She was like a best friend, she was a great person," said roommate and teammate De'antonette Rodriguez. "She would give anything to anybody. She would do anything to make you smile."

Teachers and classmates at Savannah State plan to honor her memory when they return to class next week.

"Wonderful athlete, wonderful person, excellent smile -- she had the heart, the love for everyone," said Savannah State history professor Dr. Jamal Toure'.

Toure' teaches African American History at Savannah State University and was one of Tatum's instructors last fall.

"She touched all of us and that's what we want to honor her," Toure' said. "She had much love for her volleyball teammates and talked about and bragged about them and we love that about her."

Tatum's former teammates at Lafayette High School posted a tribute to the rising athlete following their game this week.

Friends said she was much more than just an athlete -- she was a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who always made them smile.

"I don't think it's real yet, but I know it's real. It's just like it's a bad dream," said Rodriguez. "Everything I do from this day forward, it will be contributed to her."


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