Coach Saddened, Angry over Teens' Deaths

By Al Pefley  email

Stuart, FL (WFLX)

One day after a deadly crash on the  Treasure Coast, a high school coach is mourning the deaths of three teens.

All of them attended the same school,  South Fork High in Stuart.

And one was a starter on the football team.

A teacher and coach who knew all three says what happened here was heartbreaking.

South Fork High School football coach Dennis Lavelle just got back from a summer vacation on his motorcycle, touring several states.

He had no idea of the tragedy that would unfold now, just a couple of weeks before school starts.

Three teens from his school have died in a traffic crash, and Lavelle, who's also a math teacher at South Fork,  knew all three of them.

"I'm sad and angry, you know, on two different levels. Sad on a human level that it happened," Lavelle said.

The crash killed 18 year old Nicholas Coady and 18 year old Christopher Briglio, who recently graduated from South Fork. And 16 year old Connor Graver, who would've been a starter on the South Fork High football team this fall.

"He was very athletic, when he came to practice he was all business.  Never gave me any trouble," Lavelle said.

The teens' SUV slammed into a front-end loader in a construction zone on Cove Road at about two in the morning Tuesday.

Troopers say alcohol may have been a factor.

The coach says if that's true, he feels not only disappointed but angry, because he often preaches to the football team about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"From a professional standpoint, you've failed.  You didn't coach 'em up good enough. I mean that's the way I look at it as a teacher," Lavelle said.

"I've spent everyday of my life for 40 years with 16 year old kids and you hope as an educator or coach and the administration, that they listen. But we do know now that there are times that they don't," Lavelle said.

When the South Fork High Bulldogs start fall workouts next week, the coach will have a spot on the roster to fill now that Graver is gone.

The coach is also left with a nagging question, since they were all under the legal drinking age, where did the alcohol come from?

"That's the big question to me. Not only am I sad, I'm angry. Where did it come from? Who did this? They didn't get it at a 7-11, I don't think," Lavelle said.

At least two of the parents say they now have attorneys and may be considering legal action in the wake of yesterday's accident.

The parent of one teen said  they're looking at the possibility of having a memorial service at South Fork High, but nothing is definite yet.

The father of one of the teens says they had been at a party the night of the crash, but he's trying to find out where it was and if there was alcohol, how the teens got it.

The teen's classmates are having a car wash Sunday August 9 at the Seacoast Bank parking lot at Cove Road and U-S 1 starting at 9 AM.

All the money raised will go to the victims' families to help pay for funeral expenses.