Popular student-athletes mourned after Northway tragedy

Posted at: 12/03/2012 12:34 AM
Updated at: 12/03/2012 12:22 PM
By: Dan Levy

CLIFTON PARK - The Shenendehowa School District is mourning the loss of the two high school seniors killed in an accident on the Northway Saturday night. Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers were well known and respected by their peers.    

A candlelight vigil will be held Tuesday night at Shenendehowa High School in honor of Chris and Deanna students as well as two other students seriously injured in the crash.

State police say the SUV the students were riding in was hit form behind on Saturday night.

The driver of the other car, 22-year-old Dennis Drue of Clifton Park, was treated and released. No charges have been filed at this time.

However, state police say Drue was traveling at a high rate of speed. Authorities also say Drue had been drinking before the crash and will likely face charges when lab work is completed.

Criminal charges up to and including second-degree vehicular manslaughter are possible pending the toxicology results, police say.

The four victims were in the prime of their high school careers -- student-athletes looking forward to a college recruiting process that sadly two of them will never experience.

Chris was as big and powerful and talented as anyone whose ever worn a Shen football jersey. The senior captain became an all-star defensive tackle over his three-year varsity career on the high school grid iron.

"Chris Stewart was a tremendous football player for Shen," said Chris Culnan, the school's athletic director. "His legacy will live on forever."

Deanna Rivers loved to compete and lived to play softball.

"Deanna, all she wanted to do was get out there and play softball as a senior," Culnan continued, "and to not have that opportunity and to have it taken away is just so tragic."

Deanna and Chris, both 17 years old, weren't just all-stars on the athletic field. They also excelled in the classroom as well.

"These kids were very popular kids not because they were the socialites but because they did the right things," said Dr. Oliver Robinson, Shen's superintendent.

Authorities say they were doing the right thing Saturday night. Chris was behind the wheel when another car came out of nowhere, rear-ending him, sending his car out of control and rolling over several times in the median.

Matthew Hardy, another Shen football player, was in the car and badly injured, suffering a broken pelvis, broken arm and fractured ankle, along with multiple cuts and scrapes.

Bailey Wind, 17, a member of the Shaker High School diving team, was also badly injured and rushed to Albany Medical Center.

"When it's kids that are so intertwined in the fabric of the school community, you know that the devastation ripples out far and wipe," Robinson said, his throat tightening with grief.

"The depth of this and how much this will have an affect on our community will be long lasting," Culnan added. "These were very popular kids. These were very popular student-athletes and the loss is going to be felt for a while at this school."