SCARBOROUGH – Black is the traditional color worn when someone dies. But this Friday, in honor of Scarborough High School senior Steven Delano, students will wear clothing patterned with mottled green and brown colors to school, as well as flannel shirts in plaid and other colors.

The students mean no disrespect. Instead, the senior class asked the school to hold a “camo and flannel” day so they could remember their beloved classmate by dressing in his unique style.

The 18-year-old Delano, who died last weekend in a car crash on the way to a prom, loved to hunt and fish and didn’t like dressing up. His usual outfit was camouflage pants – good for hunting – and a comfortable Maine flannel shirt, his friends said.

Delano’s uncle, James Delano, said the students’ attire will be appropriate.

“It would be the only way Stevie would want it,” he said.

The good-natured young man also was known for his trademark grin. “Steve was a good kid,” his uncle said. “He greeted everyone with a smile.”

Delano died Saturday, May 8, en route with three friends to the Gorham High School prom, being held in Portland. The car he was driving collided with a tanker truck at the intersection of Payne and Holmes roads in Scarborough. The truck driver was unhurt, but Delano was killed and his passengers were injured, although all three are expected to recover.

Police say there’s no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved. As of early this week, police still were trying to piece together how the accident occurred.

As Delano’s classmates returned to school this week, the high school made grief counselors available to help them cope with the news of his death. Some of the students also sought comfort at the scene of the crash.

On Monday, groups of young people gathered at the spot on Payne Road where the car Delano was driving had landed on its roof, down an embankment and near a stand of trees. They had erected memorials for him there. Homemade crosses were scrawled with loving messages, as was a checkered flag from nearby Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. There were heaps of flowers, a Boston Red Sox cap, and some of Delano’s favorite foods, including Mountain Dew and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The students stood in clusters, trying to piece together the tragic loss of someone so young, so alive, and so much a part of their lives.

“It’s just weird,” said Collin Pierce, 17, a junior. “You always see him driving around town and now you don’t. It feels sort of empty.”

Hamlet Ghukasyan, 18, a senior, recalled how he had shaken hands with Delano last Friday and talked with him about Delano’s plans to start a landscaping business after graduating June 13.

After learning about his death, Ghukasyan said, “I couldn’t sleep all night. I was crying.”

A standout

Everyone who knew him agreed that Delano stood out. It wasn’t just the unique way he dressed, but the way he related to pretty much everyone.

Scarborough High School Principal Patricia Conant described his personality as “warm” and “wonderful.”

Jared Harmon, 17, a senior, said Delano always had a joke or a greeting for everyone he passed in the hall.

“The kid didn’t have any enemies,” Harmon said.

Delano also studied in the building trades program at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Students from Scarborough, Gorham, Windham, Westbrook and the Bonny Eagle school district – Standish, Hollis, Limington, Buxton and Frye Island – all study there, so Delano’s death has touched people from a wide range of communities, said the center’s director, Todd Fields.

He said that Delano was the foreman of a house-building project the students were involved in.

“He was a student that other students went to with questions and for answers on how to do certain things,” Fields said. “He was well respected and well liked by students and staff.”

James Delano said a staff member at the Westbrook vocational school told the family that each morning Steve Delano came to the school, he would make a point to greet that staff member and shake his hand.

Somehow, on the morning of Friday, May 7, the day before Delano died, the two missed their ritual greeting. But later that day, the staff member recalled, he heard someone come up behind him and say: “Hey, I didn’t get my handshake this morning.” It was Delano.

“The kid had a great attitude,” James Delano. “You don’t see that these days.”

Proud redneck

Steve Delano also had an unabashed enthusiasm for the things he loved. Friends proudly described him as “true redneck,” who loved Mountain Dew, country music, and hunting and fishing.

Mike Mineri, 17, a Scarborough High School senior, said Delano was a natural in the woods. “Thanks to him I know everything about hunting and fishing,” Mineri said.

His uncle recalled: “He loved the outdoors. Steve and I spent many afternoons and mornings in the woods hunting deer.”

Delano also brought a new technological twist to their hunting trips. James Delano used to buy walkie-talkies so the two could communicate with each other while hunting, until his nephew suggested texting on their cell phones would be quieter and more effective.

He also has a fondness for trucks.

“He loved his truck,” said junior Kaylee Reny, 17. “He loved fishing, hunting and his truck, truck, truck.”

A friend said he had recently bought a 2001 Chevy 1500 pickup. But that wasn’t the car he was driving the day of the accident.

His uncle said he and Steve had a texted conversation about which car he would drive to the prom at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.

In the conversation, Delano had discussed taking his own truck, and his uncle also offered the use of his truck.

However, Delano ended up driving a Pontiac G-6, which belonged to his only sibling, his brother Scott – 2008 Scarborough High School graduate serving in the military and stationed in Afghanistan.

James Delano said Scott had just gone back overseas after returning to Maine in April for the funeral of his and Steve’s grandfather, at which the two young men were pallbearers. Scott was expected to return again to Maine later this week for his brother’s memorial service. Arrangements for the service had not been finalized early this week, but it was tentatively scheduled for Saturday at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough.

James Delano isn’t sure why his nephew chose to drive his brother’s car, but it might have been because the four-door sedan could more comfortably seat four people.

Delano and his best friend, Kevin Grondin, 18, a Scarborough High School student who graduated in January, were headed to the prom with two girls from Gorham.

Police haven’t identified the girls, who received minor injuries in the crash, because they are younger than 18.

Delano’s death has shaken that community, said Gorham High School Principal Chris Record.

The school had counselors available early this week, and Record described the mood at Gorham High School on Monday as “somber.”

“We’re feeling bad for the families and Scarborough High School,” he said.

Scarborough’s prom isn’t until June 5. Friends said the idea of going to the Gorham prom was Delano’s, and Grondin went along because his friend asked him to.

“Steve didn’t want to go alone,” said Reny.

James Delano said the two young men “were like two peas in a pod. If you found one, you’d find the other.”

Grondin was seriously hurt in the crash, but Conant, the Scarborough High School principal, said he is expected to make a full recovery.

Before heading off to the prom, the two young men posed for photos. They look elegant in dark suits, white shirts and ties, but they’re grabbing each other and clowning around. Steve Delano has a camouflage cap on his head. Also, while his feet aren’t visible in the photo, friends say he was wearing his favorite steel-toed work boots with his semi-formal attire.

On the way to the prom, the young people realized they had forgotten the tickets and were heading to pick them up when the accident occurred, said Sgt. Timothy Dalton of the Scarborough police.

Under investigation

As of Tuesday morning, the accident was still under investigation, Dalton said. He said it’s possible that police may never be able to determine exactly what happened.

Dalton said the crash occurred shortly before 5:30 p.m. on roads wet from a recent rain. The road conditions may have been a factor in the crash, he said.

There is a traffic signal at the intersection, but police at this point have had conflicting testimony from witnesses as to which vehicle had a red light.

Delano’s car was headed north on Holmes Road. A truck driven by Nathan Allen, 38, of Casco, which had recently dropped off its load of jet fuel, was traveling east on Payne Road. The two vehicles collided in the intersection and Delano’s car rolled and landed upside down by the side of Payne Road.

Allen, who drives for Massachusetts-based JP Noonan Transportation, is declining to comment while the accident is under investigation, according to a woman who answered the phone at his home and identified herself as his wife.

James Delano, who drives a truck for a living, said, “Our heart goes out to the person who was driving that truck.”

Dalton said the truck suffered relatively minor damage to the front of the vehicle. The car Delano was driving was totally destroyed, Dalton said.

Among responders to the scene was a crew of volunteer firefighters, of which Steve Delano was a member, his uncle said.

Dalton said Delano’s three passengers were wearing seat belts, but it’s not clear if Delano was. Police should know more after an autopsy performed later this week, he said.

Police do not yet have the results of routine toxicology tests, but, Dalton said, there is no evidence alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident.

Those who knew Delano are confident he would not drink and drive.

“Steve wasn’t like that,” Reny said. “He wouldn’t put anyone in danger like that.”

James Delano said, “I know he wasn’t drinking and driving. I’ve never known him to drink.”

He said that in society “we look for that bad side of the story.”

But in this case, James Delano said, it appears that there isn’t one, “other than one person making a mistake at the light. I don’t know which one.”

“It’s tragic,” he said.

-Staff writer Robert Lowell contributed to this story

Steve Delano, right, clowns around with his best friend Kevin Grondin in this photo taken before the two Scarborough residents set off for the Gorham High School prom last week. (Courtesy photo)Scarborough High School students mourn this week at the crash site where Steven Delano, 18, a popular senior at the school, was killed May 8. Homemade memorials to Delano have been created at the site, which is near the intersection of Payne Road and Holmes Road in Scarborough. Students say Delano was an outgoing, unique individual who loved the outdoors, his truck, NASCAR racing and Mountain Dew. (Staff photo by Tess Nacelewicz)

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