Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Melissa Marchese died from injuries sustained in a car crash Thursday night in Shoreham, the school district has confirmed. She was 18.
In a robocall to parents Saturday, Superintendent Gerard Poole said the school library will be open Saturday at 6:30 p.m. as a gathering place for students. Mental health professionals will continue to be made available Monday as well.
A community all too familiar to tragedy began to mourn Friday the loss of a woman whose bright future was cut short two weeks before her high school graduation.
Ms. Marchese’s father, Charlie, shared an emotional post on Facebook describing his daughter as someone who would light up the room her smile. She was “kind, strong, funny, generous and ambitious,” he wrote.
“Melissa Marchese was the best of all of us,” he said. “She was brilliant, she was magnetic.”
He said her final victory was surviving long enough to become an organ donor to save the lives of others, “something she always wanted to do.”
“She was our daughter, our Melissa, our hero,” he said.
On top of her athletic successes, Ms. Marchese was an “exceptional student” and born leader in all facets of her life, her father said.
“Whether barking instructions on the softball field, or leading her friends in a dance or a song, everyone would follow her,” he wrote.
SWR assistant softball coach Tom Veryzer said spending four years with Ms. Marchese was a “very special experience.“
“She’s a person that cares deeply about everyone else that she comes in contact with and always looks to do good for others, whether it was kind words for a teammate or another student,” he said Friday before learning that she had succumbed to her injuries. “A good person in every sense of the word. I would see her doing good, not just for our team but for every person she comes in contact with.”
Ms. Marchese was a standout softball player, excelling on varsity back when she was only in eighth grade. She played five years on varsity and her skills and hard work earned her a scholarship at the University of Hartford where she intended to continue her athletic career next year.
“She’s very passionate about everything in her life, whatever team she’s on, her school work, especially her family,” Mr. Veryzer said.
Early on Friday, friends set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to support her family. It surpassed $40,000 by the end of the first 24 hours. Ms. Marchese’s father shared the page on Facebook Friday and wrote: “She is fighting for her life and we could use any help and prayers!”
The school announced that it had taken the unusual step of canceling all final exams scheduled Friday.
“There will be no negative impact on any student final grades as a result,” Mr. Poole said in a statement.
In the updated statement Saturday, Mr. Poole said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the individual’s family and friends and we continue to keep all those involved and impacted by this tragedy in our thoughts during this very difficult time.”
Fellow students and staff on Friday anxiously waited for good news to arrive on Ms. Marchese’s condition. Her basketball coach, Adam Lievre, said no one got much sleep Thursday night after hearing about the crash.
“Today at school, it was a long day,” he said Friday. “You’re just waiting to hear something, something positive. I can’t even put myself in her family’s shoes. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through.”
Counselors were provided at the district Friday.
“She’s a hard worker, never stops,” said athletic director Mark Passamonte.
Both the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation and Andrew McMorris Foundation shared condolences Friday to the Marchese family.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Marchese family, to friends and our community,” a Facebook post from the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation said. “No one should ever have to go through this.”
“Our hearts are heavy today,” the McMorris Foundation wrote. “We will continue to keep the Marchese family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Thomas was a junior at Shoreham when he died in 2014 and Andrew died last September at 12.
Ms. Marchese is survived by her parents Charlie and Marie, sister Heather, brother Joey and niece Mya.
Ms. Marchese was the passenger in a vehicle with two fellow seniors who were all en route to a senior recognition night event that was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday when the crash occurred. She was in a 2007 Hyundai Elantra that was turning left onto Route 25A from Miller Avenue when it was struck by a westbound Honda Accord, police said. The driver of the Elantra, Evan Flannery, 17, and another passenger, Caroline Tyburski, 18, both of Shoreham, were transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.
The driver of the Accord, Michael Troiano, 34, of Ridge was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said. Detectives are investigating whether Mr. Troiano was distracted and ran a red light. There were no signs of drugs or alcohol, police said.