Wilson High School began to face yet another tragedy Tuesday as word spread that two teens with ties to the school were killed in a car crash in Cambria.
Eric F. Antoncich, who turned 19 on Friday and had graduated from the school last spring, was driving north on Church Road about 11:45 a.m. when he lost control of his Pontiac Fiero and slammed into a tree.
The car was a short distance from Route 104 when Antoncich, driving at a "a high rate of speed," lost control on a curve, Niagara County sheriff's Capt. Bruce Elliott said.
The impact split the Fiero, shooting a large piece of the car into tree branches.
Antoncich's passenger, former Wilson high student Brenden M. Christy, 17, of Youngstown-Wilson Road, Ransomville, was thrown from the car. Christy was pronounced dead at the scene, Elliott said.
Antoncich, of Cambria-Wilson Road, was pronounced dead a short time later at Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane.
The days ahead will mean counseling sessions for students at the high school, along with two more funerals for young people in the Wilson community.
"It's not easy, but it's not about my grief or about me. I'm here to provide stability for the students," said Michael Wendt, Wilson schools superintendent.
Wendt called Antoncich a "great individual," who was active in lacrosse.
"We will keep him in our prayers," the superintendent said.
During the last two years, two other students or former students have died in car crashes. Two recent graduates also died in a murder-suicide last year.
* Wilson High School graduate Kristina Moley, 19, died in a one-car crash July 21 in North Tonawanda. Her boyfriend, Ryan Lacey, of Lockport, was at the wheel when his car crashed into a tree. He was arraigned last month in Niagara County Court on charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.
* In July 2008, Kari Gorman, a former Wilson cheerleader, was killed by her former boyfriend, Shawn Wolf, who then committed suicide.
* In February 2008, senior Timothy Kelahan died in a weather-related crash on his way to school.
Deputies continue to investigate Tuesday's crash.
"There still are a lot of unknowns," Elliott said from the crash scene Tuesday afternoon.
Richard Gross and his son, Wade, both of the Town of Lockport, were power washing the Community Bible Church late Tuesday morning when they heard a loud bang near a stand of trees just south of the church.
"We just heard a big boom and then we saw what looked like a couple tires smoking, which was actually the engine of the car," Wade said.
The rear of the car, which contained the engine compartment, came to rest about 25 feet from the tree the Fiero struck, facing St. Peter's Lutheran School and cemetery across the road.
The Grosses said Antoncich was belted into the car when they got to the crash scene. The passenger lay motionless a short distance from the front of the car, which ended up under the tree the car struck.
"It's not something I ever want to see again," Wade said.
Sheriff's deputies, Cambria and Ransomville volunteer firefighters and a Mercy Flight helicopter were called to the scene, as well as coroner Robert DuBois.
Rescue workers worked on Antoncich for at least 20 minutes, Wade said, before he was taken away by ambulance.
Mercy Flight left without the passenger.
Church Street was closed for several hours after the crash.
Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services Principal Melisa Niver said Antoncich attended the school in his junior and senior years, and graduated from the welding program.
"Eric was a kind and considerate person who was always willing to help others," welding teacher Steve Frey said.
"Our thoughts go out to Eric's family," Niver said, "and the Wilson community."
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