South Cobb teacher killed in wreck was to wed this summer

Jay Chapman, the South Cobb High School social studies teacher killed Friday in a head-on collision outside New Orleans, was heading to the city to celebrate his upcoming wedding.

A group of fifteen friends, composed of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers from University of West Georgia, had planned a golfing outing as five of the men are engaged to be married, said Joseph Chapman, Jay's father.

James M. "Jay" Chapman, 28, and his fiancée Katie Walker, both of Atlanta, planned to marry July 4, in Rome.

Chapman and friend Keith G. Stewart, 27, were both teachers and had just finished their last day of school when they left in Chapman's truck for New Orleans. On Interstate 59 near Slidell, La., Homer Phillips, 74, drove his 1993 Ford pickup northbound in the southbound lane of the highway around 6:15 p.m., said Louisiana State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Donald Pierce. Phillips struck Chapman's 2007 Ford truck driven by Stewart, sending the truck into the median before striking another vehicle. The driver of the third vehicle was uninjured.

Phillips and Chapman died at the scene and Stewart suffered minor injuries.

Joseph Chapman said that the woman whose car was also struck by Phillips said the wreck was unavoidable.

"[Phillips] just appeared and it was too late," he said Sunday. "It was instantaneous. No suffering."

Police said alcohol was not a factor for either driver in the accident. Both Phillips and Chapman were not wearing seat belts, according to Pierce. Stewart and the survivor in the third car had their seat belts fastened, said Pierce.

The Chapman family haven't yet seen their son's fiancée since the accident, but said they've communicated with Walker -- also a teacher -- via text message.

Jay Chapman was the second child of three sons, and an avid athlete, his father said. In college he was named intramural athlete of the year for two years, and later coached basketball and softball at South Cobb High. He was looking forward to coaching junior varsity baseball this year, his father said, and ultimately wanted to coach golf.

"He was very loving, very loyal and extremely sweet," his father said, sharing an anecdote about a young Jay's medical visit at 5 years old. When his doctor told Jay he could have one treat for good behavior, Jay asked for three.

"'I want one each for my brothers,'" Joseph Chapman tearfully recalled his son saying.

Now the family is pulling together to plan his funeral services, though they are unsure when his body will be able to come home. According to Louisiana law, Chapman said, Jay Chapman's body must be autopsied and embalmed before it is released.

Joseph Chapman said his family plans to fly to New Orleans to accompany his son's return.