September 14, 2010

Hearts torn after crash that killed two Maine teens

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WELLS – Friends of Austin Dykes and Christian Lumenello gathered Monday to remember the Wells High School sophomores at a shrine assembled just off Tatnic Road, where the two were killed in a car crash Saturday morning.

click image to enlarge

Sophomore Chris “Stumpy” Vaccaro, center in blue shirt, and other friends of Christian Lumenello of Ogunquit and Austin Dykes of Wells spend time Monday at the site of the crash that killed both students on Tatnic Road in Wells early Saturday morning.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

"Austin was epic," said Shauna Lapierre, one of about 10 friends clustered by the side of the road. "He was always up for anything and always with a smile."

Speaking of Lumenello, they said he was a good kid all the way around, and never had anything bad to say about anybody.

In a kind of tribute, young drivers squealed their tires in front of the crosses, candles and mementos marking the crash site, leaving long skid marks along the road.

Police say Lumenello, 16, of Ogunquit, was behind the wheel at 12:40 a.m. Saturday, racing east over a sharp hill that sent the car airborne, causing him to lose control and crash into a tree.

Daredevil driving isn't uncommon on the road, teenagers said, as youths take the "Tatnic Challenge" – running from one end of the undulating road to the other without dipping below 65 mph.

Friends agreed that the feat is impossible, but said many young drivers accelerate into the road's rises to "catch air."

Dan Doucette, who has young children, said speeding on the road in front of his house – which has a speed limit of 35 mph – is common.

"Especially in the summertime, this is the back route," he said, as people who work in motels and restaurants use Tatnic Road to get back and forth from Sanford, North Berwick and even Kennebunk.

In the past, he has invited police officers to park on his property to run radar, hoping to slow down drivers.

Wells police Lt. Gerald Condon conceded that speeding is sometimes a problem on Tatnic Road, and said officers run speed details with radar there occasionally. But he said he has not heard of people driving 65 mph on the back road.

Police say they don't suspect alcohol was a factor in Saturday's crash, but they will do blood tests as required. Condon said officers are giving the families time to grieve before pressing them for details on the boys' activities that night.

Lumenello was driving with an intermediate license, so he could not legally have a passenger who was not a family member (unless accompanied by an adult driver) and he was not allowed to drive after midnight.

Intermediate licenses are granted to new drivers after they pass their road tests. They last 180 days, after which the restrictions are lifted.

Lumenello got his driver's license in June, so he would have had an intermediate license until December, police said.

Lumenello was elected by the freshman class last spring to be its homecoming king at Wells High's football game Sept. 24 against Fryeburg Academy. Each class elects homecoming kings and queens in the spring and prepares floats for the big game, said Jack Molloy, activities director for the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District.

Molloy said school officials and participants haven't decided what effect the deaths will have on the event.

Lumenello was the male figure in his family, said his friends. His older brother left to join the Army, and there are two younger brothers, a tight-knit group who looked out for each other, friends said.

Dykes, 15, from Wells, had three sisters, friends said. He was described as exceptionally upbeat, enthusiastic and the kind of person who was always fun to be around.

Kyle Cluff said he was a senior when he met Dykes, who was a freshman, and they became best friends. He recalled happy times, with the two of them and Lapierre heading out to Salmon Falls in Buxton to dive into the bracing water off the steep riverbank.

He remembered going to Old Orchard Beach, where Dykes, even at 15, would ask out college girls. His friends said he was like a 25-year-old in a 15-year-old's body.

The news of the boys' deaths spread quickly Saturday morning. Monday morning, students at the high school were aware of it and the mood was somber.

"It was really quiet," said Emily Knight, a student who was a friend of the boys.

The school made counselors available to students, and for those who were having trouble coping with schoolwork, it made the auditorium available for grieving and consolation.

Students were able to write their feelings on a large black banner.

Audrey Ramsdell, a junior, said, "There was a lot of crying."

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@pressherald.com

 

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