Lenape High School students cope with death of a classmate

By Lauren Wolkoff and Mike Mathis
BCT staff writers

MOUNT LAUREL -- Just hours after students at Lenape High School were notified about the sudden death of one of their classmates, a floral memorial began to take shape at the Fostertown Road site of the car crash that took the lives of two teen-agers and injured two others Saturday night.

The crash killed 16-year-old William Dukes Jr., son of Mount Laurel Fire Chief William D. Dukes Sr. and Gerri Dukes, as well as Andrew Rubel, also 16, of West Atlantic Avenue in Clementon. Injured were township residents Anna Marie Pinkavitch, 16, and Justin Ramsden, 17, who was driving the 1992 Chevrolet Monte Carlo when it skidded off the road near Route 38 and struck two trees Saturday night. Hospital officials at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden declined yesterday to disclose the status of the injured teens because of their age, although they were both listed in serious condition late Saturday when they were admitted.

The accident, which police said did not appear to involve alcohol or drugs, remains under investigation by the Mount Laurel Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.

Officials from the Lenape Regional High School District tried to help their students cope with the aftermath of the crash, the second fatal car accident in 3 months involving district students and one in a string of serious crashes over the past few years.

The school district yesterday adopted what officials have dubbed the "sudden-death procedure" as part of its overall crisis-intervention plan, according to district spokeswoman Patricia Milich.

The sudden-death procedure involves first notifying students about a death through closed-circuit television at the school, and then following the news with visits to each classroom by guidance counselors.

"The students are advised that they may feel grief, and told that if they do, they have a network of people to talk to. They are given the opportunity to verbalize their feelings about the (deceased),'' Milich said.

A silent expression of grief played out yesterday at the accident scene itself, as a group of young people dedicated a small memorial to the students who were killed.

Marie Pinkavitch, Anna Marie's grandmother, stood with tears in her eyes at the side of Fostertown Road yesterday afternoon. Visibly shaken by the memorial, she stopped there en route to visit her granddaughter at the hospital..

"The police told me that if (the crash) had been a foot or so more to the front of the car, my granddaughter would have been killed,'' said Pinkavitch, who lives in Mansfield.

Dukes was a good student who enjoyed playing guitar with Rubel, Mount Laurel Deputy Fire Chief Don Murray said. The boys played at various Veterans of Foreign Wars halls in the area and gave the proceeds to charity, Murray said. "He was one of those kids you'd want your son or daughter to be friends with,'' said Murray, whose son and Dukes wrestled together when they were students at Harrington Middle School in Mount Laurel. "He was an outstanding kid and he loved life. He always had a smile on his face." Counseling sessions were held for members of the fire department who responded to the accident scene, and the department held a meeting on Sunday to inform those members who had not already been told of the crash, Murray said.


Burlington County Times
Tuesday, June 15, 1999