Local students die in tragic accident


By Gabriella Levine

Update: 1/8/13: Dennis Drue faces 52 felony counts, including charges for vehicular homicide

Huffpost, ESPN, Yahoo, USA Today and the New York Post featured articles on the Twitter campaign that caught the attention of two celebrity athletes and captured the hearts of the nation.

Original article published on 12/03/12:

On Saturday evening, two local students, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both 17 and seniors at Shenendehowa (Shen) High School died tragically in a car accident, and two other students, Shaker High School senior Bailey Wind and Shen junior Matthew Hardy survived after suffering multiple bone fractures. Wind and Hardy are in stable condition at Albany Medical Center.

Dennis Drue, 22, of Clifton Park, was driving the Volvo that struck the Ford Explorer driven by Stewart on the Northway on Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon, New York State police captain Steven James confirmed that Drue tested positive for alcohol in his system and had been speeding and frequently changing lanes at the time of the accident. James also stated that Chris Stewart was not at fault for the accident.

Drue survived the accident with only a cut to his forehead. According to the Saratogian, he will likely face two counts of vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide depending on his blood alcohol content.

For those of us who are natives to the Capital Region, Shen and Shaker are two familiar names amidst the group of local high schools.

They are the names of the schools that many of us attended. They are the names of the neighboring schools attended by our fellow friends. They’re the schools that we competed at for sports, that we went to for prom, that we perhaps visited for a homecoming football game.

Shen and Shaker represent home for this local community, and the loss of two young students is a travesty made even more potent by the fact that they were two of our own.

When I graduated from Bishop Maginn High School, another local school, in 2010, I had many friends from both Shen and Shaker; however, I did not know the two students who died this past weekend. Yet the misfortune still hits close to home, and this seems to be the case for many in the area. The impact of this tragedy has extended throughout the region to people who never even knew the names of those we lost.

Today, there are mourners on every corner. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you go, whether it be Albany, Clifton Park, Schenectady or Colonie— you will encounter the inevitable whisperings and murmurings of the question, “Did you hear about what happened to those Shen and Shaker students?”

In the face of the most terrible heartbreak of lives taken far too soon, the community has come together with unwavering support for those directly affected by the loss.

Many may argue that, in the past, Shen and Shaker were rivals. Today, former rivals or not, the two schools stand united.

Students who arrived at Shaker this morning witnessed the mutual agreement to stand together. Shaker’s main sign at the entrance to the school read, “Shaker Shen United.”

Since Sunday, Facebook has come alive with a simple photo of four teenagers smiling for the camera. In the photo, Rivers is held by Hardy, and Wind sits happily in her boyfriend Stewart’s arms. They are in a state of perfect bliss, and their faces are fresh with the youth that comes with one’s high school years. The photo has garnered thousands of likes and shares from members of the local region.

Other photos have also surfaced. Stewart in his football uniform, proudly standing on the field with his fellow captains. Wind and Stewart standing together in an embrace at their prom. Rivers sliding into second base during a state Class AA regional softball game.

The images are sadly familiar because they tell the story that each of us experienced in high school: sports, football games, prom, friendships, relationships, etc.

Statuses from fellow students, alumni, concerned parents and friends are prevalent on social media. The most frequent message is, “Shen and Shaker strong.”

On Twitter, #shenstrong, #ripangels, #RIPchrisanddeanna, #shakershenunited and #518united are trending.

Today, students from Shen and Shaker have united by wearing green, Shen’s color, in memory of the loss of Stewart and Rivers, and in honor of Hardy. Tomorrow, students will don Shaker’s blue in recognition of the pain endured by Wind.

One tweet remarked, “The amount of people wearing green today is amazing.”

Even students from other local schools, such as Hudson Valley Community College, posted photos of the infinite green that filled the hallways.

Another tweet reassured, “Seeing tons of people wearing green today shows how much the 518 can come together.”

Shenendehowa Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson said, “Any time there’s a loss of life of young people, that’s a loss for us as a society, and so we grieve deeply because of death.”

An honorary candlelight vigil will be held tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. at the Shenendehowa High School Athletic Stadium.


Leave a Reply