PORTLAND – If his life had gone according to plan, Kevin Grondin would have graduated from Air Force boot camp by now.

The 20-year-old would be far from his Scarborough home, starting out the military service he hoped would eventually lead to a second career in federal law enforcement.

But that plan ended May 8 in a prom night crash that killed his best friend, 18-year-old Steven Delano, and left Grondin seriously injured and struggling to cope with a new version of reality.

On Friday afternoon, Grondin and his father sat in a courtroom in Portland. They watched as the driver whose tanker truck collided with Delano’s Pontiac G6 was arraigned on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and reckless conduct.

Maine State Police investigators say Nathan Allen, 37, of South Casco, ran a red light at the corner of Payne and Holmes roads in Scarborough, striking Delano’s car as it passed through the intersection.

Allen, standing by his attorneys, Neale Duffett and Gerard Conley Jr., pleaded not guilty to all counts and was released on personal recognizance.

After the hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court, Grondin said he wanted to be there on behalf of Delano, and he plans on attending all the proceedings in the case.

“This is for Stevie,” Grondin said. “Me and him were attached at the hip. Nobody ever asked, where’s Kevin or where’s Steve. They always used to ask, where’s Kevin and Steve at.

“That is the toughest part, not having him here.”

Five months after the crash, Grondin is thankful to be alive. But he suffers from anxiety, fatigue and severe ringing and near deafness in his left ear. Several broken bones in his face have healed. Because of a brain injury, speech remains difficult, as does his ability to concentrate for long periods.

“It’s gotten better, I’d say, in the past month, but it’s still not the same as it was before,” Grondin said.

He graduated from Scarborough High School in January and was preparing for Air Force boot camp on June 16 in Texas. Delano was going to graduate from Scarborough in June and was starting his own landscaping business. On May 8, Grondin and Delano planned to attend the Gorham High School prom with two students from that school. The event was held at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.

The boys picked up their dates and posed for photographs at Delano’s house in Scarborough. All four of them got in Delano’s car and headed back to Gorham because one of the girls had forgotten her prom tickets.

It was raining hard as Delano drove west on Holmes Road. Allen, driving for Massachusetts-based J.P. Noonan Transportation, was driving an empty jet fuel tanker north on Payne Road. Around 5:25 p.m., the vehicles collided at the intersection and the truck pushed Delano’s car about 100 feet down Payne Road and into a ditch, where it landed on its roof.

Allen was not hurt. He has no criminal record, and before the crash he had a clean driving record dating back to the early 1990s. If the case goes to trial, it would be held sometime next year.

Grondin was in a coma for about 36 hours after the crash and suffered severe bleeding in his brain. He was transferred from Maine Medical Center to New England Rehab hospital in late May before returning home. In early June, he was still confused and disoriented and was under 24-hour supervision by his parents.

But he got out of their sight for a few minutes on the morning of June 7, and went driving in his 1996 Chevrolet pickup. Around 9 a.m. he crossed the center line on Route 1 and collided head-on with a tanker truck driven by 20-year-old Ryan Dube of Sidney.

Except for some scrapes, Grondin was unharmed, a fact that amazed police officers who responded to the scene. Dube suffered a minor back injury, police said.

Grondin said he remembers bits and pieces of the days before that second accident, but it all seemed like a waking dream, and he does not remember taking his truck out for a drive. He said he was not trying to take his own life, and his family was upset by rumors that circulated online.

The support of the Scarborough community — from his fellow students to business owners and members of the police and fire departments — has been amazing, Grondin said.

He lives with his parents and recently took a part-time job at Cabela’s hunting and fishing store. He said the managers there have gone out of their way to help him.

His approach to life is day by day.

“It’s tough because I had my whole life planned out. I was going into the Air Force, then I hoped to go into federal law enforcement. That was my plan and it’s gone right out the window.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]