Fatal car crash shatters Olney -- Gazette.Net


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The Olney community is still reeling this week, after a holiday weekend car crash claimed the life of one teen and injured two others.

Among those mourning the death of 15-year-old Shawn Richard Gangloff was Emily Levine, who said she was his girlfriend.

“He was so lovable, and always had a smile on his face,” Levine said Sunday afternoon, as friends gathered at a makeshift memorial. “He made me feel so loved and so happy, and when I wasn’t with him, I missed him.”

They had been dating for two months, although they had been close since the beginning of the year, and she admitted that she had liked him since seventh grade.

Levine said she had been with him the night of the crash, which occurred early Saturday, when the car the boys were in left the road and struck a tree, a light pole and a telephone box, and rolled over.

“I wish I had more time with him,” she said. “I’ve been visiting him here and talking to him all weekend, and brought him flowers and a note.”

It’s not yet clear what caused the crash. Police and rescue personnel arrived at the area of Hines Road and Macduff Avenue in Olney at about 1:23 a.m. and found the driver and the occupant of the front passenger seat trapped in the car, a 2011 Chrysler 200 convertible, according to the Montgomery County Police Department.

Gangloff, of the 17600 block of Princess Anne Drive, had been riding in the back seat and was thrown from the car. He died of his injuries at a local hospital Sunday, according to police.

The driver, Austin Donovan Hall, 17, of the 3400 block of Tanterra Terrace in Brookeville, and the front passenger, Maxwell Elliot Dechter, 17, of the 800 block of Lindsey Manor Lane in Silver Spring, were hospitalized with serious injuries, police said. Hall has since been released; Dechter was in critical condition Tuesday at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Lancaster.

The crash is still under investigation, but police think Hall and Dechter were wearing seat belts but Gangloff was not, said Cpl. Rebecca Innocenti, a county police spokeswoman.

Funeral arrangements have not been disclosed.

‘You wouldn’t forget him’

As rain fell Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of teens arrived and huddled beneath the tree at the memorial, sharing memories, tears and even a few smiles.

The memorial included several lacrosse sticks; T-shirts from Olney Elementary, Rosa Parks Middle and Sherwood High schools; candles; balloons; flowers; stuffed animals; an umbrella; a tissue box; and even some pieces of debris from the crash.

Levine and three other girls, all high school juniors from Olney, brought flowers, a large butterfly balloon and a note to Gangloff, which they tacked to the tree.

Debbie Sostman said Gangloff found something positive in any situation.

“He influenced you to be a better person,” she said. “He was on the lacrosse team, and was friends with a lot of people, even kids in different grades.”

“Shawn was kind of the class clown, but in the best of ways,” Sostman said. “If you met him, you wouldn’t forget him. He left an impression on you.”

Savannah Hartzoge said she never recalled seeing Shawn angry about anything. She drove him and the others to school each morning, and she had math class with him.

“It’s going to be really sad not having him in the car with us or next to me in math class tomorrow,” she said.

Help for family

The Olney community sprang into action this weekend.

Debbie Doherty is one of a large group of people working to arrange meals and other necessities for the Gangloff family.

Doherty said the Gangloffs are well known, as Shawn’s mother, Allison, is a teacher at Olney Elementary School and his father, Rick, also works in the county school system.

“We are putting together a webpage on www.lotsahelpinghands.com to arrange for meals, donations and other things you hope you will never need,” she said.

Once it is established, the information will be posted on the Olney-Brookeville Exchange Yahoo Group.

Doherty said she is aware of another group working to set up something similar for the Dechter family.

“And Austin’s family, too,” she said. “We know they are not dealing with the same issues, but we know it is going to be hard for him and his family so we are trying to reach out to them, as well.”

The events of this weekend hit close to home for Bart Popeck, an Olney resident and teacher, whose son Alex, also a Sherwood student, died from injuries suffered in a car crash in 2011.

“Once again Olney is proving itself to be the most caring and supportive community imaginable,” Popeck said. “Within 72 hours of a terrible accident, arrangements have been made for the affected families to have homemade meals delivered regularly, gas and parking funds made available to offset extenive trips to the hospital, and even cutting their grass. Olney comes together to support its own in stunning fashion. I call this ‘Olney Up.’”

Sherwood High School Principal William Gregory said he is heartbroken.

“It’s just a tragedy,” he said. “Max is still in the hospital with serious, critical injuries, but his mother told me he is hanging in there, so our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

He called Hall “a real good kid — very friendly and charismatic, as is Max.”

Gregory recalled a conversation he had with Gangloff on the second day of the school year last week.

“We talked about goals and expectations for his junior and senior years, and his excitement about being at Sherwood,” Gregory said. “Having had that conversation, this really hurts.”

He met with staff before school started Tuesday, even though he had been in contact with them through the weekend.

“Even though everyone knew what had happened, we needed to be together,” he said.

Students sent online messages about wearing Sherwood gear to school in honor of the three boys, and staff got the message, too.

“It was such a sign of unity to see all the Sherwood blue,” Gregory said.

Gregory addressed the school through the public address system Tuesday morning. Students and teachers then had an opportunity to talk, before heading to their classes.

The auditorium was opened for students to come and go throughout the day, with the school district’s crisis team and school staff available.

“Sherwood is a strong community,” Gregory said. “We are united in good times, and when we need to be in bad times.”

The crash reverberated beyond the school community.

“This type of incident can be especially trying on fire and rescue personnel whenever there are young victims, and even more so when there are multiple patients,” said Michael Kelly, chief of the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department, who responded to the crash.

“Since many of our members live in the surrounding area, there is a greater likelihood that they are rescuing people they may know or know of,” he said.

Kelley said that just as the public schools often have counselors on hand following such incidents, the fire and rescue service has critical incident stress management teams available to help members when needed.

thogan@gazette.net

Staff Writer Daniel Leaderman contributed to this report.