SCARBOROUGH — Kayla Mae Carpenter and Julia Waters on Tuesday said it felt good to return to the scene of the tragic prom-night accident that killed one of their friends and severely injured another last weekend.
They said it was helping them cope with the loss and recover emotionally, while their physical wounds are still healing.
The two girls were in the back seat of Stephen Delano’s Pontiac when the car was struck by an empty fuel tanker at the corner of Payne Road and Holmes Road at 5:25 p.m. on May 8.
Delano, a senior at Scarborough High School, died after being transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Kevin Grondin is still being treated for his injuries, but is expected to make a full recovery.
The driver of the tanker, Nathan Allen, 37, of Casco, was not injured in the accident.
Students from Scarborough and Gorham high schools and Westbrook Regional Vocational School gathered at a makeshift memorial this week at the site of the accident.
Carpenter, a junior at Gorham High School, said it felt good to talk about the accident and told her story to the crowd.
“Kevin screamed and I saw the grill of the truck in the window,” she said. “Stephen swerved to get out of the way and I swung my feet up against the door. The next thing I knew, we were upside down. I saw Stephen’s feet sticking out of the window, and started poking him to see if he was OK.”
Carpenter, whose collarbone was broken in the crash, said a woman named Annabell pulled her out of the car.
“Annabell came over, picked me up and threw me over her shoulder. Then I woke up on the side of the road,” she said.
With her arm still in a sling, she and Waters decided to return to the scene of the accident Tuesday afternoon on their way to visit Grondin in the hospital. The two girls were immediately surrounded by other students and friends.
“I thought it was a dream,” Carpenter said.
Waters showed the other students deep, red burns left on her shoulder by a seat belt, and cuts on her arms and knees from broken glass.
“Steve saved our lives,” Carpenter said. “He reminded us to put our seat belts on before we left. He didn’t have his on, but he made us. He saved our lives.”
The tanker was traveling toward the Maine Mall on Payne Road and the students’ vehicle was on Scarborough Downs Road headed toward the intersection at Payne Road. Scarborough police said one of the vehicles ran a red light, although they have not been able to determine which vehicle was at fault.
“I’m almost positive Stephen stopped. He was so careful. He wasn’t the type of person to risk that,” Carpenter said.
State police are still working to reconstruct the accident. No charges have been filed in connection with the accident and Scarborough Police Detective Sergeant Rick Rouse said he did not anticipate that the reconstruction would determine which vehicle ran the light.
The scene of the accident has become a memorial and students have been gathering there this week to place flowers and crosses for their friend. A few students grabbed spray paint bottles and painted “RIP Stephen” on the pavement.
Scarborough High School Principal Patricia Conant said the school is having “flannel and camouflage” day on Friday in honor of Delano, who, she said, was an avid hunter and fisherman.
Delano was studying the building trades at Westbrook Regional Vocational School. For the past three years, he spent half his school day in Westbrook learning to build houses.
“He was very much a leader in that program,” Conant said.
She said the students have planted flowers around his parking spot at the high school, and that many students have spent time speaking to the three social workers and three guidance counselors the school has had on hand all week.
“The seniors will also being wearing camouflage ribbons at graduation,” Conant said.
Students described Delano as a “goofball,” said he “always had them laughing,” and that he “never called you by your first name.” They said he had nicknames for everyone.
Delano also volunteered for the Scarborough Fire Department.
“At next year’s prom,” Carpenter said, “I’m not taking a date. I’m taking Stephen’s spirit.”
Visiting hours for Stephen Delano are scheduled Thursday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 1024 Broadway, South Portland. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, 150 Black Point Road.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Delano, left, Kayla Mae Carpenter, Julia Waters, and Kevin Grondin pose for their prom photo. The photo was taken minutes before the tragic car accident that killed Stephen and seriously injured Kevin on May 8.