Tragedy befalls adventurous NKU student

She loved to ride four-wheelers and go muddin’ by the river. She could put a smile on anyone’s face. And if she had a hobby, her brother said it was being an adrenaline junkie.

Northern Kentucky University freshman Rachel Barnett died at 2:30 a.m. on April 23 when the car she was driving was struck by a drunk driver. She would have turned 19 on April 28.

Barnett loved being outdoors and really had an adventurous side to her. Some other activities she enjoyed were rock climbing and camping.

Sports were also a big part of her life, and she enjoyed playing basketball, soccer and lacrosse.

“When we were growing up we’d play any kind of sport you’d play with neighborhood kids,” said former neighbor Tara Doll.

Barnett played lacrosse for the Division III club team, the Anderson Lady Orange. Paul Eldridge started coaching the team in 2007 when Barnett was a freshman. According to Eldridge, she showed promise by always competing for possession, which he says is key to success. Eldridge said that a few games into her sophomore season, it was impossible for him not to have her playing on the varsity team.

In 2009 and 2010, Barnett was named both first team All District and All State, having accomplished this in only her third and fourth years of playing the game of lacrosse.

Eldridge says that she had the quality that allowed her to be a different person once she stepped on the field, and would not be denied when it came to wanting the ball. Off the field, she was more reserved.

“When the game was over and the equipment came off, Rachel became that quiet, kind person that we all came to love,” Eldridge said.

Barnett was one of the main reasons why Anderson won the Division III championship in Ohio for three straight years from 2008 to 2010.

“Not being disrespectful to other girls on those teams, there were other great players on those teams, but Rachel clearly was a force when she stepped onto the field,” Eldridge said.

Not only did Barnett play lacrosse, but she also gave back to the sport by becoming a certified umpire, as well as volunteering to help coach the seventh and eighth grade girls youth team in Anderson.

“She will be missed, but her spirit will always be with the Lady Orange of Anderson Lacrosse,” Eldridge said.

Barnett could have easily gotten a scholarship to play lacrosse at college, according to Eldridge, but she decided to attend NKU instead. She was an education major and received a full ride on an education diversity scholarship, her brother Adam said.

According to Hamilton County police, the crash happened Saturday morning. Alexander J. Kuehnle, a 23-year-old from Cincinnati, was driving at a high speed, eastbound on Beechmont Avenue, when he lost control of his 2009 Toyota Corolla. He traveled into the westbound lane, slamming into a 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciara driven by 18-year-old Barnett. One of her closest friends, 23-year-old David Gillen was a passenger in Barnett’s car. Gillen and Kuehnle were taken to University Hospital. Gillen was released within 12 hours, while Kuehnle was last listed in serious condition.

“We did everything together, I was always with that girl,” said Mandy Smith, a freshman at Bowling Green State University and Barnett’s best friend since the fourth grade. “I was with them Friday night. We went grocery shopping, came back here and hung out. The next thing, I wake up to is that [news] Saturday morning at 2:30 a.m.”

A viewing will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 29 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at 7820 Beechmont Avenue. Her funeral will be held at 10 a.m. April 30, also at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Northerner’s Nick Jones and Cassie Stone contributed to this report.
Story by John Minor