Holloway tragedy highlights caution for senior trips

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-The search for recent Mountain Brook High School graduate Natalee Halloway continues this week as authorities operate off information and tips they have gathered. Halloway disappeared soon after graduation on a senior trip to Aruba with 140 other Mountain Brook students.

The trip began as a routine graduation celebration similar to those conducted by many other senior classes around the country. Marengo County students also ventured on a similar trip during the same time period.

Eighteen Marengo Academy and Demopolis High School students, along with chaperones recently participated in a cruise to Cancun, Mexico. Fortunately, for the local students the trip went off smoothly and no problems arose.

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Kay Hudgens, who served as a chaperone for the trip said they were fortunate in that their group showed a lot of maturity and caution while on foreign soil.

“We had a really good group,” Hudgens said. “We saw a lot of things there where you could see how something like that could happen, but we had a really good group of kids who looked out for each other.”

Cancun, much like Aruba is represented with a completely different legal system than the United States. One of the major differences is the definition of an adult. Hudgens said the differences were clear.

“It was an eye opening experience for me,” Hudgens said. “When you get down there and you are 18 you are an adult. It was a lot different than what we deal with here.”

Before leaving the chaperones established a safety system to make sure everyone was where they needed to be when they needed to be there. Hudgens said they never traveled alone while on the trip.

“I can’t say enough about what a good group we had down there,” Hudgens said. “They really looked out for each other. We had a system where everybody had a buddy and they looked out for each other. This whole group pretty much knew where each other was at all times.”

Halloway was one of 140 recent Mountain Brook graduates and several chaperones that made the trip to Aruba. The trip is a tradition for graduates, but not an official school event.

Halloway was last seen leaving a nightclub before dawn and later missed the flight home.

Police and the FBI have searched for Natalee since she was reported missing.

She was last seen getting into a vehicle at the nightclub in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba.

Authorities have followed several leads and taken suspects into custody, however, the search for Natalee continues.