2 families, schools mourn teens

Carroll boy and girl die when van strikes tree in Finksburg

April 08, 2008|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,SUN REPORTER

One was an honors student and talented athlete, described as a "bright light." The other, the youngest of 10 children and an avid reader, was recalled as "pure of heart."

Students and staff at two Carroll County high schools mourned yesterday the loss of Emily M. Burke, 15, and Rudolfo Calderon, 14, who died in a single-car accident in Finksburg this past weekend.

Emily, of Sykesville, was a sophomore at Liberty High, and Rudolfo, of Finksburg, was a freshman at Westminster High. Counselors were at both schools yesterday to help students and staff, some of them in the students' classes, officials said.

An "eerie kind of silence" filled Liberty yesterday morning for about hour and a half, Principal Dwayne Piper said, as the school community struggled with the news. More than 100 students met with counselors, he said. About 50 - some of them revisiting - did so at Westminster, said Dee Muskin, who heads the guidance department there.

Emily "was just a wonderful, wonderful person ... and students are missing her very much," Piper said. "She was involved in so many things."

Emily's father, Paul Burke, said the honors student played on the school's soccer team in the fall, participated in varsity indoor track in the winter and varsity softball in the spring. She also played in a year-round soccer league and a travel softball league, he said.

"Emily was a bright light in any environment," Burke said. "She's strikingly personable. ... If she ever met a stranger, they left as a friend - and she didn't meet many strangers."

Brandi Jason, Liberty's instrumental music director, said Emily played violin in the school orchestra. She recalled how Emily and her best friend, Alison Hird, who was injured in the crash, would regularly come to her and say, "I love you, did you miss me?"

"It was so wonderful," Jason said. "It's going to be a huge loss."

The Burke and Calderon families have known each other for a while, the children spending a great deal of time together, said Burke and Julio Calderon, Rudolfo's older brother.

The youngest of 10 - eight boys, two girls - Rudolfo was "our little baby," Calderon said. "Every single one of us tended to watch over him."

His position as youngest seemed to preserve his "childlike innocence," Calderon said. "He was a very happy kid. ... He was pure of heart."

Calderon encouraged his brother's love of reading, he said, recalling that Rudolfo, known as Rudy, enjoyed the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. He also loved music, Calderon said.

Saturday was "just another one of those days," when kids from both families were hanging out, Calderon said.

Emily's brother Paul, 17, was taking Rudolfo, Emily and Alison home, police said. He was driving north in his family's 2002 Chevrolet van in the 4300 block of Louisville Road in Finksburg about 11:30 p.m., according to state police from the Westminster barracks.

He lost control of the vehicle and crossed the center line, striking a tree head-on, police said.

There was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved, police said, although they were looking into the possibility that the driver fell asleep.

The younger Paul Burke was treated and released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Sunday. Alison, 15, of Sykesville, was discharged from Shock Trauma late yesterday.

Viewings for Emily and Rudolfo are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow, and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at St. Joseph Catholic Community, 915 Liberty Road in Eldersburg. The funeral service for Emily is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph's. The service for Rudolfo will be at 2 p.m. Friday, also at St. Joseph's.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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