'Ray of Sunshine' Teacher Killed & 4 Others Injured After Tree Falls on Van During Tenn. Storm

A fourth-grade teacher was killed in Tennessee on Thursday after a storm knocked down a tree onto the van in which she was riding with her husband and others.

Brooke Sampson, 36, was pronounced dead at Blount Memorial Hospital after her van was struck by the tree around noon, the Sevierville City government said in a statement.

She and her husband Mike were two of seven passengers, all of whom besides Sampson were employees of the city, the statement said.

Four people — Bob Moncrief, Nathan Raulston, Joseph Dodgen and Eldon Denney — were injured and taken to local hospitals. Two have since been released from the hospital, WVLT reported.

The van was on its way back from an American Public Works Association meeting in the Townsend area when the tree fell, causing “extensive damage,” the statement said.

Sampson was a teacher at Sevierville Intermediate School, and had previously worked at Seymour Intermediate in the same district.

Seymour Intermediate Principal Peggy Oakes told PEOPLE in a statement that Sampson was “a ray of sunshine wherever she went.”

“She was a caring teacher who never gave up on her students. She has an infectious smile and laugh, which radiated her deep faith,” the statement read. “Brooke was an active member of her church serving in missions and with youth. We who knew Brooke are better people to have been a part of her joy.”

Oakes also sent a letter to her faculty informing them of Sampson’s death, a copy of which was obtained by PEOPLE.

In the letter, Oakes wrote that Sampson’s husband Mike was driving the van when the accident occurred, and referred to the late teacher as a “cute little firecracker.”

“She was a great teacher that we had to sadly send to Sevierville Intermediate because of our declining numbers. When she and Mike married, she chose to celebrate along the Pigeon River, close to her Valley and Park,” Oakes wrote. “We celebrated with hot dogs. Such fun, so Brooke. For sure she was greeted in Heaven with songs..cheers…hugs…and praises for all she packed into 36 years.”

She concluded, “Fly high Brookie…we will never forget your sweet smile…your little giggle and how much you loved to teach. Seymour Intermediate loved you.”

Sevierville, which is about 30 miles from Knoxville, had been under flash flood warnings along with the rest of the state’s eastern portion, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Sevier County Schools are closed through Monday due to “illness,” according to an alert on the district’s website.

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