Grieving parents, students and friends gathered at Mainland Regional High School in southern New Jersey on Sunday evening to mourn the deaths of four high school football players in a car crash.
The tragedy occurred on Saturday morning when 20 players from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J., sought respite after a hectic week of football practice. They piled into cars and were headed for lunch at the Old Country Buffet in Mays Landing nearby.
Eight of them were packed in a Ford Explorer. The crash occurred when the SUV spun out of control and overturned several times near the Egg Harbor exit on the Garden State Parkway as it came upon heavy traffic near the exit.
Casey Brenner, 17, who was driving the SUV, was killed along with Edgar Bozzi, 16, of Somers Point, N.J., Nicholas Connor, 16, of Northfield, and Dean Khoury, 15, of Linwood. Four others were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
Two of the boys were thrown from the Explorer, with one hitting a passing vehicle. Three were pronounced dead at the scene and the fourth died later at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center's Atlantic City Campus.
Bob Coffey, the football team's head coach for the last 25 years, reminisced about the achievements of the four boys killed in the crash. Coffey said Brenner was competing to be the starting tight end, Bozzi was likely to get playing time as a linebacker, Khoury was working hard after Coffey nearly kicked him off the team for missing a practice, and Connor was one of the team's most enthusiastic special-teams players, reports the Associated Press.
All four of them were so happy, doing so well, said Coffey.
People from all over the country have turned to Facebook to express their grief and sympathy for the four deceased players.
My prayers are with all the families and friends affected by this tragedy. Life was taken far too soon from these teens. We think at 17 we're invincible, but this shows how untrue that is. My heart breaks for these families, and my hope is that God touches your hearts, and helps you to grieve as you should, and find closuure[sic] in knowing they are remembered, wrote Kaitlyn Nicole Lefevers on the R.I.P Mainland HS Boys. Gone but never forgotten Facebook page.
Sgt. Julian Castellanos, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police, said that an investigation into the cause of the accident was continuing. New Jersey law generally bars drivers under 18 from carrying more than one passenger, unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Web site, teenage drivers with two or more teenage passengers are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those with none.