Girls were on way to lake house when their Trailblazer swerved into oncoming traffic, hit a truck and burst into flames.
In times of tragedy, sometimes there is only an embrace, a shoulder to cry on, the support of friends and family.
Hundreds of 2007 Fairport High School graduates, students, parents, alumni and administrators hoped for that support when they flocked to the hill outside the school in the early morning hours Wednesday.
Some arrived with sleeping bags as early as 4 a.m., and more arrived as news spread that five of their classmates were killed in a car accident in East Bloomfield, N.Y., on Tuesday night.
Bailey Goodman, 17, Hannah Congdon, 18, Meredith McClure, 17, Katie Shirley, 18, and Sara Monnat, 18, were on their way to the Goodman family cottage on Keuka Lake when their Chevy Trailblazer collided head-on with a tractor-trailer on Routes 5 and 20 and burst into flames, Ontario County sheriff’s deputies said.
Deputies say the Chevy Trailblazer driven by Goodman legally passed another vehicle, but suddenly re-entered the westbound lane, hitting the tractor-trailer around 10:30 p.m.
Both vehicles erupted into flames. Deputies said the driver of the tractor trailer, David M. Laverty, 50, of Cattaraugus County, was not seriously injured.
There is no preliminary indication of alcohol or drugs, but medical examiners will have the final results soon, deputies said.
Four other students, also headed to Ms. Goodman’s cottage, were following the girls in another car when the accident happened, Fairport school administrators said.
“It is a nightmare for Fairport High School. Our hearts are broken and go out to their families,” said Principal Dave Paddock. “We are supporting each other, and we are here to support them.”
Paddock sent two e-mails to the faculty and school community in the hours after the accident.
In one, at 5 a.m., he invited everyone to meet at the hill and he stated that roughly 100 kids were already there.
The other, at 4:39 a.m., expressed his grief:
"This is the e-mail I hoped I would never have to send, but as many of you already know, our school and community has suffered an almost unimaginable tragedy this evening. It is with overwhelming sadness that I inform all of you that five of our children, all of whom just graduated from FHS last Thursday evening, lost their lives earlier tonight in a car accident. ... My thoughts of love, of course, go to the families of our young people who we lost tonight. We love all of our children at Fairport High School. Today our hearts are crying."
Four of the five girls were varsity cheerleaders.
Paddock described them as “high profile” and “high on life.”
The girls’ classmate, Bryce Lendar, didn’t know them well, he said, but he was still compelled to go to the high school Wednesday morning.
“I came to remember,” Lendar said. “I don’t believe it still. It doesn’t seem real.”
Supt. Jon Hunter echoed the sentiment.
“This is an incredible tragedy. When one dies it’s a tragedy, but five — we can hardly deal with this,” he said.
Contributing: Messenger Post reporter Stephanie Bergeron