Prom night crash kills student

May 09, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

It was supposed to be a night to celebrate, to cherish friends, to look forward to the days after high school. But at Southern High in Anne Arundel County, prom night for one student ended in death early yesterday.

Eric Michael Franklin, 17, a lacrosse team captain who was to graduate next month, died when the 1993 Lincoln in which he was riding slammed into a telephone pole along a quiet stretch of Muddy Creek Road.

Police are investigating the crash and trying to figure out why the driver, high school senior John Lawson Pasquella, lost control of the car and then left after the accident.

Mr. Pasquella, 18, was released yesterday from Anne Arundel Medical Center after treatment for injuries he sustained in the accident.

News of Mr. Franklin's death spread quickly.

"He's going to be missed," said the lacrosse team's coach, Ray Bowen.

"I'm speechless," said Tom Albright, Southern's athletic director.

According to Mr. Bowen, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Pasquella spent the first part of prom night with their friends from the class of 1994 at the Marriott Hotel in Annapolis. Afterward, they went to a breakfast sponsored by Southern High School.

"The school does that to keep the kids from having too many hours to do things that they shouldn't be doing," Mr. Albright said.

After leaving the breakfast, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Pasquella dropped off their dates and headed home.

Mike Pasquella said he learned later from his injured brother that at some point John Pasquella had said he wanted to drive because Mr. Franklin had been drinking.

According to police, John Pasquella drove toward Mr. Franklin's home in Norwood. It was about 3:50 a.m.

Cruising along Muddy Creek Road near Lansdale Road, John Pasquella lost control of the car on the wet, slippery two-lane road, went off the pavement, hit the slick grass shoulder, went down a gully and careened sideways into a telephone pole. Police said it appeared the car was traveling too fast.

The car's air bags inflated. Mr. Franklin was wearing his seat belt. Neither helped.

"Most of [Mr. Franklin's] injuries were from the side," said Anne Arundel County Officer Anthony Mills.

Police said they are trying to piece together the details of what happened next.

A passing motorist picked up John Pasquella and drove him to his West River home. Mr. Franklin was left in the wrecked car, which was found minutes later by a police officer on routine patrol.

Once home, John Pasquella, badly cut, tried to stitch his wounds with a needle and thread, his brother said.

"He was in shock. He didn't know what he was doing," Mike Pasquella said. "My mother woke up and found him standing in the middle of the living room. He said,'Mom, I got into an accident.' "

When he turned around, his mother noticed that his eyelid and ear had been badly slashed. She took him to the hospital. His nose and his collarbone had been broken.

Police said they are waiting for blood test results to determine whether John Pasquella had been drinking.

At 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 165 pounds, Mr. Franklin was a fast, powerful defenseman for the Southern High Bulldogs, the school's lacrosse team. Last season, he tore ligaments in his knee and was sidelined. He spent the summer exercising, getting his knee back in shape.

By the time he returned to the team this season, he was stronger than ever. He became one of the three team captains and kept the squad together through a 6-7 record that included several close, one-point games.

"You just loved to have him around," said Mr. Bowen, his coach. "He never made excuses. He loved to joke around. Everyone loved him. When he came back from his injury, he didn't miss a step."

The Pasquella family was distraught over the prom night tragedy.

"We're devastated," said Mike Pasquella.

"Our hearts go out to [Mr. Franklin's] family. My brother was very close to Eric. He's going to carry that burden with him the rest of his life."

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