Dec. 11—Maine Maritime Academy was mourning the loss Sunday of four students killed in a car crash Saturday as details of the accident and what may have caused it have been slow to surface.
Several hundred students, faculty and local residents attended a vigil Sunday in honor of the four who died: Brian Kenealy, 20, of York; Chase Fossett, 21, of Gardiner; Luke Simpson, 22, of Rockport, Massachusetts; and Riley Ignacio-Cameron, 20, of Aquinnah, Massachusetts.
They were killed early Saturday morning when the car they were in, driven by another student, Joshua Goncalves-Radding, left the road, struck a tree and erupted into flames on Route 166 in Castine.
Goncalves-Radding, of North Babylon, New York, and two other students who were passengers in the car survived. The other students were Noelle Tavares, 20, of North Falmouth, Massachusetts, and Dominick Gecoya, 20, of Middleton, Massachusetts. The three survivors were treated at area hospitals for non-life threatening injuries.
State police said Sunday they were not ready to release any new information beyond Saturday's news release, which said a full investigation is underway.
At a news conference Sunday before the vigil, Maine Maritime President Jerry S. Paul said the entire community in Castine — both on and off campus — were mourning the loss of the students. Paul thanked the community, federal and state officials and other colleges who have rallied to help support the school, and he said he had spoken to the parents of the students who died.
"It's not a phone call you want to wish on anyone and it's not a phone call any parent wants to receive," Paul said. "My heart goes out to them. The thoughts and prayers of Maine Maritime Academy and the entire maritime world go out to them."
Paul said the college was not able to provide details on where the students were going or coming from, or possible reasons for the cause of the crash, saying that information will likely come from police in the future.
"Right now our priority is to support students and support families," he said.
At the vigil, Paul told mourners the students will never be forgotten.
"Mourn these young men in their memory. ... They were lost way too soon and before their watch was over. We will carry on for them and at the appropriate time ring eight bells in their honor," Paul said, referring to the sea tradition honoring someone who has died.
In response to a request for more information on the crash, including whether speed or alcohol were factors and if police expect any charges, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss declined to comment, saying the investigation could take weeks, if not months, to complete.
Moss also declined to say whether the students were wearing seatbelts. "These kind of details are part of the investigation and if released too early can compromise the investigation," she said in an email.
In October, the Ellsworth American reported that a state police corporal issued summonses to Simpson and Goncalves-Radding after they were pulled over traveling 90 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone on Shore Road in Castine on Oct. 9.
Simpson, who was driving, was summonsed on a charge of criminal speeding. Goncalves-Radding, a passenger in the car, was summonsed on a charge of possession of liquor by a minor after allegedly throwing alcohol out of the vehicle during the traffic stop, the newspaper reported.
Moss said further information on the Oct. 9 incident and whether the cases were still open would have to come from the Hancock County District Attorney's Office. A phone message and email to the office Sunday were not returned.
LOSS OF STUDENTS MOURNED
Friends and family on Sunday were mourning the tragic loss of the students who died.
Fossett was a 2020 graduate of Gardiner Area High School who played for the school's soccer and lacrosse teams and was popular with both peers and teachers, said Gardiner Area High School Principal Chad Kempton.
"He was just an exemplary young man," Kempton said. "He was the whole package — kind, polite, smart, a good athlete and a good teammate. Everything is positive in regards to how I and how I think we all think about Chase."
Fossett had two sisters who also graduated from Gardiner Area High School in recent years, Kempton said. He said the community has been hit hard by the news.
"It's a hurting time for a lot of people around here, and I'm sure the same goes for the other three young men who lost their lives in this accident and their families and community members," Kempton said.
In a post remembering Fossett on the Gardiner High School Class of 2020 Facebook page, several people shared thoughts and condolences below a photo of Fossett standing on a dock with a peaceful harbor view in the background. "There are truly no words," read one comment. "Chase was always so kind in any class we had together. He is already very missed by his community, sports teams and his friends."
York School Department Superintendent Lou Goscinski told WMTW that Kenealy played soccer at York High School before going on to the team at Maine Maritime, where he was studying business and logistics.
"Brian was an outstanding student-athlete who was beloved by his classmates, faculty, and staff," Goscinski told the television station. "He took his skills to the Maine Maritime Academy where he continued to excel academically and on the soccer field. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brian's family as well as all who knew and loved him. Brian will be greatly missed."
The crash follows another tragedy for Maine Maritime Academy in 2015, when five alumni were among the 33 crew members who perished in the sinking of the El Faro off the coast of the Bahamas.
In light of Saturday's crash, Paul said the college has increased counseling resources available to students, and he wants them to come to the administration, experts or each others as they process the news.
"They don't need to go through this alone," Paul said. "We'll do this as a team — that's how us mariners do everything at sea."