FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The first visitation services was held Monday night for one of the five five teens killed in the head-on crash on Long Island this past weekend.
The wake was held Monday night for 18-year-old Jesse M. Romero at Arthur F. White Funeral Home, CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.
A roadside memorial was also set up for the victims, with candles and handwritten notes, pictures of the dead teenagers, and balloons expressing life and love, 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported.
Anthony Gangliardi, 16, knew all of those killed, and said he had been upset “this whole weekend.”
Meanwhile, sources told CBS 2 a teenage driver was apparently drag racing crashing into a sport-utility vehicle in Farmingdale, and some of the five teens killed in the collision were spotted drinking earlier in the evening in the woods.
Stephanie Meyer, attending the wake, told 1010 WINS’ Dennis that everyone indeed blames the crash on drinking and drag racing.
“People are always, like, saying yes to everything because it’s cool at the moment, when it’s not,” she said.
The five teens, who were all current or former students at Farmingdale High School, were riding in a 2001 Nissan when the vehicle crossed the center line on Conklin Street and collided with an GMC Suburban minutes after midnight Saturday, police said.
Police are investigating the possibilities of speed, drag racing, drinking and texting in the crash.
One of the victims, 17-year-old Cody Talanian, initially survived the accident and was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center. He, however, succumbed to his injuries Sunday night.
Neighbors said Talanian’s mother was at his side holding his hand.
“We were really hoping he would pull through,” neighbor Jessica McEachern told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “Just to hear about this happening right on Mother’s Day, I mean, I just can’t imagine. It’s just a horrible, horrible thing.”
Families of the other four victims, identified as Romero, 18; Tristan K. Reichle, 17; Noah Francis, 15; and Carly Lonborg, 14, are each grappling with the loss of a child.
“I can’t live without him,” Romero’s father, Emilio, told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “He had a nice heart.”
“Hold your babies close and tight because you never know when they’re going to be taken from you,” said Noah’s sister, Celeste Tziamihas.
Tziamihas became the teen’s legal guardian in August when their father died; their mom passed when Noah was a baby.
Noah texted his sister 15 minutes before the crash to say he was coming home, Jiang reported.
“Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My mom hadn’t held him since he was 2, and she got him yesterday,” she said. “I had him for 13 years, but she got him yesterday.”
Grief counselors were at Farmingdale High School on Monday to help students cope with the loss.
“Unimaginable — on Mother’s Day weekend, even more,” one woman told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.
“They’re inconsolable, some of the kids,” another woman said. “These are kids.”
School officials posted a message on Twitter encouraging students to wear green Monday in a show of solidarity.
Wear green on Monday to demonstrate our Daler pride!
— FHS Dalers (@FHSDalers) May 11, 2014
“This has been a heartbreaking time for our Farmingdale School District community as well as the greater Farmingdale community,” School Superintendent John Lorentz said in a statement Monday. “There is nothing more devastating than losing a child.”
On Sunday night, more than a thousand people attended a prayer vigil in Farmingdale. The vigil drew such a large crowd that speakers had to be set up outside to handle the overflow.
In a moving gesture, first responders lined up outside of the church in a show of support.
The driver of the GMC and a female passenger, who have not been identified, were also seriously injured in the crash. They were visiting from Maryland and were on the way to their hotel, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
Officials and neighbors said the stretch of Conklin Street where the crash happened is notorious for speeding.
“It’s a flat track of land, and it is a highway,” Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand told McLogan. “It is prone to speeding, and it is prone to racing for those two reasons.”
“The speed limit is 40,” Kathleen McCauley, who lives near the crash site, said. “People are doing 70. They need lights. They need to do something with this road. It is a tragedy what’s happened.”
Father Michael Duffy of St. Kilian’s Roman Catholic Church, which is on Conklin Street, agreed that speeding cars on the stretch are a problem.
“About six years ago, the pastor of the parish was able to get these signs put up, blinking crossings,” Duffy said. “It doesn’t really do anything. You really do take your life in your hands when you are crossing the street.”
Ekstrand said he has written a letter to the governor and the state Department of Transportation demanding a safety study of the road.
“While I’ve been mayor the last two years we’ve had two accidents where the safety of the road is called into question,” Ekstrand told Rivera. “Both accidents occurred in the village on NY-24, which in the village we call Conklin Street.”
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