Moorestown High School students today are mourning a classmate killed in a beer-fueled weekend car crash while police investigate who supplied the alcohol.
School superintendent John Bach said the mood was somber this morning as students reported to the Burlington County school. He said the 12th graders were especially hard-hit.
Senior Evan M. Welch, an 18-year-old member of the school's swim, soccer and lacrosse teams, was killed early yesterday when the car in which he was a passenger ran off the road and struck a tree, police said.
Police charged the driver, Daniel Friedmann, another Moorestown High senior, with drunken driving. Police said Friedmann, 18, lost control of his 1997 Volvo on Garwood Road about 12:15 a.m.
Welch, who was riding in the rear, was killed. Friedmann was treated for minor injuries and released from Virtua Hospital in Burlington County.
A third Moorestown High senior, 17, was taken to Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden with "non-life-threatening" injuries, police said. Police declined to identify him, saying only that the teen was a front-seat passenger.
Bach said some students congregated in the high school parking lot yesterday afternoon after learning about Welch's death. They were crying and hugging, he said. School officials opened the cafeteria for them to meet and console each other, he said.
"It was very comforting to them to come here. They felt school was the place to go and be safe," Bach said this morning.
Grief counselors were on hand when school opened today and 35 to 40 students and five staff members sought counseling, Bach said. About 1,400 students attend the school.
Bach said counselors would also be available this afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church, on Bridgeboro Road in Moorestown, where Welch attended services and performed volunteer work.
Welch was described by a guidance counselor as "sturdy, sensitive and authentic." The athletic teen worked as a lifeguard and was planning to attend college next year.
Meanwhile, Police Sgt. Randolph S. Pugh said investigators were trying to determine where the youths were before the crash and how they obtained alcohol found at the crash scene.
The crash site, about a mile from the high school, was littered with beer cans. Investigators found six to 10 empty cans, as well as 25 to 30 unopened cans, and the boxes for two 30-pack cases of beer, police said.
Investigators were also trying to account for all the cans from the two cases, to determine who drank them and when, Pugh said.
Police said that Friedmann was driving the four-door sedan on Garwood, toward Westfield Road, when the car went off the road, traveled 100 feet, rolled onto its side, and struck the tree. It ended up in a ditch on its roof.
All three teens were apparently wearing seat beats. None was thrown from the car.
The Burlington County Medical Examiner's Office pronounced Welch dead at the scene. A woman at his home declined to comment later yesterday.
Police declined to disclose Friedmann's blood-alcohol level, saying it was department policy not to disclose such figures. No one responded to a message left at the Friedmanns' home.
Moorestown police, as well as the township fire department and emergency squad, responded to the crash.
Pugh said Welch's death was the first such auto fatality he could recall of a Moorestown High student in many years.