Movie stunt blamed in teen death and 2 injuries Youths struck while lying in road

October 19, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Like the hero of the new movie "The Program," two teen-agers from Pennsylvania and another from Long Island lay in the middle of two different roads at night, apparently to prove they had nerves of steel. Unlike the movie hero, they did not walk away unharmed.

Michael A. Shingledecker Jr., 18, of Polk, Pa., was killed almost instantly about 1 a.m. Saturday when he and a friend were struck by a pickup truck while lying on a two-lane highway in Polk, a small borough in western Pennsylvania; his friend, Dean G. Bartlett, 17, was critically injured.

And Michael Macias, 17, of Syosset, N.Y., was critically injured when he was hit by a car at 10:40 p.m. Saturday as he lay in the middle of Bayville Avenue in Bayville, N.Y.

Law-enforcement authorities and family members said the teen-agers appeared to be copying the daredevil stunt from "The Program," in which the college football hero shows how tough he is by lying down in the middle of a busy highway as cars and trucks whiz by in the dark. There are fears that scores of other young men may be copying the stunt.

In a similar accident, a New Jersey man was struck by two cars and killed Tuesday night. In that case, the police in Bordentown said that a man identified as Marco Birkhimer, a 24-year-old handyman who had been drinking heavily, sat in the middle of Route 206 in Bordentown on a dare from a companion.

The police chief of Bordentown township, George Moyer, said the police had no evidence that Mr. Birkhimer was influenced by the movie, but he said the similarity was too striking to overlook. "In the movies you jump out a window and walk away, but in real life we pick up the pieces, as we did with Birkhimer," he said.

Mr. Birkhimer appeared to be the only victim who was drinking; the police in New York and Pennsylvania said there was no indication that the teen-agers had used drugs or alcohol before participating in the stunt, although coroner's reports have not been completed.

There seems to be little question that many young men have been imitating the stunt in "The Program."

"My son saw the movie last weekend, and I know he was playing the game because the kids playing it with him told me," Patricia Shingle decker said in an interview yesterday after attending her son's funeral in Stoneboro, Pa. "They said about 30 other kids were playing the game a few miles up the road in another town the same night."

In the Long Island case, Detective Thomas Ketaltas of the Nassau County Police Department said that students who witnessed the accident told him that Mr. Macias was imitating the scene in the movie.

The R-rated movie, which was directed by David S. Ward, was released by Touchstone Pictures, a division of the Walt Disney Studios. Touchstone Pictures released a brief statement last night that offered condolences to the families, but defended the film.

"The scene in 'The Program' clearly depicts this adolescent action as an irresponsible and dangerous stunt by a troubled and heavily intoxicated individual, and in no way advocates or encourages this type of behavior," the statement said.

In the Pennsylvania case, the police said the driver of the pickup truck did not see the boys, who were wearing dark clothes and were lying in the center of the road, parallel to the yellow line dividing the lanes. "I was told they did this as a dare," Trooper David Wargo, the investigating officer, said Sunday.

As many as four teen-agers were lying on the road at one time, the boys told the police. Neither the driver of the truck nor any of the other drivers involved was charged with any violation.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.