Sherwood mourns student killed in crash, police say driver had odor of alcohol


Students comfort one another at the site of the fatal crash that killed Shawn Gangloff, 15, who attended Montgomery County’s Sherwood High School. The driver and another passenger, both 17, were seriously injured. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Sherwood High School was a sad but unified place Tuesday, as students wore their school colors to show a common bond while struggling with the death of a 15-year-old schoolmate killed in a teen car crash over the holiday weekend.

As the school mourned, Montgomery County police released new details suggesting that alcohol was involved in the fatal wreck that claimed the life of Shawn Gangloff, 15, a well-liked junior and lacrosse player with a knack for making people laugh.

Police said Tuesday that the 17-year-old driver who lost control shortly before 1:30 a.m. Saturday had an odor of alcohol when officers arrived at the scene, along Hines Road in Olney, Md.

The car struck a tree, rammed into a light post and hit a telephone box before flipping over, police said. The three teenagers were taken to hospitals, and Gangloff died the next day. The driver has been released, and his family said they are praying for everyone involved. The other passenger’s father declined to comment when reached Tuesday.

Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman, said that the three teens had been at a party at a nearby house and that the parents who live there were out of the country. Police searched that house, on Moss Side Lane in Olney, and found alcohol and a small amount of drug paraphernalia, Starks said. By the time police arrived, the party was over, he said.

The driver was given a blood alcohol test at the District hospital where he was taken after the crash, Starks said. Results of that test could take up to six weeks. No one has been charged with a crime or a driving violation in connection with the crash, which police are still investigating. The Washington Post generally does not identify minors injured in car crashes.

Sherwood High reopened Tuesday after the three-day Labor Day weekend with one of its own gone. Principal William Gregory made a schoolwide announcement in the morning, asking students to keep those involved in the tragedy and their families in their hearts. Extra counselors were on campus, and students were invited to talk to them or each other in the auditorium.

“Overall, our kids have been able to support one another today,” said Gregory, who recalled having had a lengthy personal conversation with the 15-year-old just days before he was killed in the crash. “He was a very nice kid, a very friendly kid.”

The community’s abundant affection for Gangloff was on display at the crash site, where flowers, handwritten notes and lacrosse gear continued to accumulate and encircle the tree struck by the Chrysler convertible. Jagged, black, metal debris from the wreck was laid near the makeshift memorial — a box of tissues, too.

On Tuesday, a candle burned in solemn tribute much of the day.

Kristen Reynolds, 16, a friend of Gangloff’s, brought flowers that her father, Eddy, helped her tie to the side of the tree with a purple ribbon. Purple was Shawn’s favorite color, she said. “He always had a way of making you laugh and smile. I know a lot of people say that, but it’s true,” she said, her voice breaking.

As others remembered Shawn, they spoke of life’s fragility.

“One minute, you’re talking to your good friend, and the next minute, he’s gone,” said Kaleigh Homer, a Sherwood senior, who said she had seen Gangloff the night before the crash. “It just changes life completely.”

Samantha Chapman, a parent, said she wished that the driving age was 18 and that driver’s education would be taught in schools. “You’re more mature at that age,” she said. Her daughter, Emily, 17, said she was already taking the roads more slowly when she drives.

The mourning extended beyond Sherwood’s campus in Sandy Spring. A tweet from the account of the Class of 2016 at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood read: “Please wear Sherwood blue tomorrow in honor and remembrance of Shawn Gangloff. #rip Magruder is here for you warriors”

Lee Evans, Magruder’s principal, said that the two high schools are long-standing county rivals but that “at times like this, we share a lot. We share their grief, and they certainly have shared ours.”

One Sherwood mother who went to the crash site Tuesday said she intended to bring her son back to the memorial to show him “how fast things change.”

“You hope some of these kids take a lesson,” she said. “I don’t know. You pray for the families left behind.”

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
Susan Svrluga is a reporter for the Washington Post, covering higher education for the Grade Point blog.
Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.
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