Students grieve after loss of classmates

Atholton senior is one of two killed in crash

another teen injured

Students at three schools cope with tragedy after crash

Columbia

September 28, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Robert Middaugh's friends mourned his death yesterday, just three days before what would have been his 18th birthday.

They remembered the Atholton High School senior as a friendly and easygoing person who always seem to smile. Middaugh, who would have turned 18 Thursday, was killed Saturday night in Montgomery County, when the car he was driving slammed into a metal light pole off Route 198 in Burtonsville.

"He was a very sweet guy," said Cristina Barbour, 17, an Atholton High classmate. "He always had a smile on his face. I don't think one person didn't like him."

The crash, which occurred about a mile from his Laurel home, also killed front-seat passenger Michelle Timchalk, 17, of the 5900 block of Parkway Drive in Laurel. Timchalk was a senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington.

A second passenger, Mary Kathleen Collins, 16, of the 6200 block of Brooklyn Bridge Road in Laurel, remained in critical condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Montgomery County police said. Collins is a senior at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville.

The accident was one of three fatal crashes involving teen drivers and excessive speed in Montgomery County over the weekend, leaving five people dead.

Middaugh was driving a 2004 Pontiac GTO east on Sandy Spring Road (Route 198) at high speed when he lost control of the car and slammed into the light pole at McKnew Road, police said. Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which investigators requested after they detected an odor of alcohol from the car, they said.

Dozens of flowers were at the crash site, along with a few signs. "We'll always remember you, [love] AHC seniors," read one sign, referring to Timchalk.

"Michelle was a devoted friend to many," said Susan J. Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Academy of the Holy Cross.

Timchalk also was dedicated to her school and was involved in various activities, including swimming and track and field, Mitchell said.

At Mount de Sales, Collins was on the minds of her former teammates on the varsity soccer team, said coach Stuart Rubin. Collins played on the team last year as a junior, but didn't try out this year, Rubin said.

During yesterday's practice, the team said a prayer for Collins.

"She's a great girl," Rubin said.

Dealing with grief

At Atholton High yesterday morning, several students met with counselors and a school psychologist. A county crisis management team also was available, said Liz Gates, the school registrar.

"He was a sweet boy," Gates said of Middaugh. "He's going to be missed."

In April, Middaugh transferred to Atholton from St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, Gates said. He worked as a student aide at the guidance office, answering phones, helping new students and running errands.

"He was very kind and a gentle person," she said. "He had old-fashioned manners."

Though Middaugh was an Atholton student for only a short time, he left an impression on 14-year-old Tynika Reese, a sophomore who was taking American government with Middaugh this year.

"He was really nice," Tynika said. "I didn't really know him as much as I wanted to."

A teenager who answered the door at Middaugh's home declined to comment yesterday.

Three years ago, an Atholton High junior was killed in a car accident a few blocks from school on the last day of classes. Police said the student apparently was speeding while rounding a curve on Harriet Tubman Lane west of the school and hit a utility pole.

Caution on the roads

Montgomery County officials implored parents, students and the community -- especially teenage drivers -- to be cautious on the roads.

"I hope this serves as a wake-up call to all students around the county that this kind of behavior can kill people and has killed people," Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said.

Officials plan to increase public awareness by sending letters to parents, stepping up law enforcement efforts Friday and Saturday nights and seeking legislative means of curbing reckless driving by teenagers, Duncan said.

Funeral arrangements have been scheduled for Middaugh and Timchalk.

Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday for Timchalk at St. Mary of the Mills Parish, 114 St. Mary's Place, in Laurel. Classes at Holy Cross have been canceled for that day.

Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday for Middaugh at St. Mary of the Mills. Both families are members of the parish, said Mark Adkinson, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington.

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