DARREN DUNCANSON'S MOTHER, Emily Tebbetts, receives a hug from Shannon Letendre following the gathering of students on the Kingswood football stadium bleachers to share their grief at the loss of her 18 year old son. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
April 05, 2012WOLFEBORO — Sadness swept through the region April 1, as word spread that Kingswood High School student Darren Duncanson, 18, of New Durham had been killed in a car accident.
The Kingswood senior was driving his 2000 Chevrolet Malibu on Route 25 in Porter, Maine on Sunday afternoon when he lost control of the car on a winding section of road. The car rolled and hit several trees. Duncanson was pronounced dead at the scene. His passengers, Amber Lee, 17, of Effingham and Justin Bohmiller, 18, of New Durham were taken to Maine Medical Center. Bohmiller was treated and released. Lee remains hospitalized as of press time being treated for several broken bones.
Within a few hours of the accident, Duncanson's fellow students found each other on Facebook to share the tragic news, console each other, and share their many memories of him. It was quickly evident they thought of him as an all-around great kid, always friendly, helpful, and smiling and the kind of kid that was friends with everyone.
"I think everybody needs to come together now, and stop hating each other for the smallest thing. Life is too short. We all need to make the best of it. Darren Duncanson, you were proof that not every person out there is terrible. More people should be like him. Always be happy, smiling, and making everyone feel better. We all miss you," read one Facebook post.
While another student wrote, "I can't stop thinking about you man, you were a rose among thorns. You were never mean to anyone. I had a lot of good times with you and I was always happy to see you. Rest in peace."
Monday morning students came to school with #83, Duncanson's football jersey number, written on their wrists. Others wore his photo taped to their shirts.
They quickly began organizing, planning a vigil to remember their friend. Hundreds gathered in the bleachers at the Kingswood football field Monday afternoon at 5 p.m.
Duncanson was a member of the varsity Knights football and basketball teams and had received the Scholar Award from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Historically, April Fool's Day, April 1, has not been kind to the folks in this region in recent years. It was April 1, 2008 when cousins Raymond Eldridge, 18, and Hunter Streeter, 8, of Ossipee were killed in a snowmobile accident in that town.
At 5 p.m. on Monday, April 2, Kingswood students walked alongside the football stadium bleachers, picked up candles offered to them, and made their way up the metal steps to take their place among classmates, teachers, coaches and administrators to mourn the death of their classmate and friend.
They quietly huddled together against a chilly breeze. The green expanse of football field where Duncanson played with such fire and determination was sunlit, but in the shadow of the stands, they reflected on their loss.
The news spread quickly through student Facebook accounts and his devastated classmates, some unable to sleep that night, began printing pictures, making posters and making plans to come together after school to comfort one another and remember their friend.
They taped posters of Duncanson in uniform along the chain link fence bordering the field and organized music.
The young mourners listened to the lyrics calling out, "Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on." And Ray Charles sang "Georgia on My Mind" – a tip of the hat to Duncanson's roots.
For over an hour, one student after another stepped down to the front and faced the crowd at senior Shannon Letendre's invitation and reminisced on his kindness to others.
"Good people are so few and far between," said one, who said his friend's death was "a reminder of how precious life is."
His football teammates spoke of his determination and tenacity on the field, yet off the field he was known to only have kind words for others. One young man described himself as off beat and crazy but said that Duncanson always accepted him and could not be drawn to anger.
An exchange student said that when he first entered Kingswood High School, "I spoke no English, I was pathetic, but the first day I met Darren. We shared every day together and every weekend, except for this last weekend."
A dark haired girl told his mother, seated in the front, "You did a really good job raising your son. He was so kind and so sweet."
Assistant football coaches Dave Lane and Tom McCullough spoke of a young man who would give all he had. "He had a short, spectacular life," said McCullough. "He would look you directly in the eye," he added, and he urged students to remember that gift.
Letendre handed a signed basketball and a football, representing Duncanson's two varsity sports, to his mother.
"His team will have to go without him," Duncanson's grandmother told the crowd as she thanked them for their love. "You made his life here wonderful."
There will be no calling hours. A Memorial Celebration of his life will be held this Saturday, April 7, at 10 a.m. at the Kingswood Arts Center in Wolfeboro.
Longtime Kingswood coach Chip Skelley has seen more than his share of tragedy in his time in the school district. Having coached Duncanson for the past few years on the Kingswood football team, he was among those searching for answers to questions that may not be able to be answered.
"It's one of those things. You try to figure out why: it's tough to try to explain why something like this happens to good kids and good people," Skelley said. "You really couldn't have asked for a better kid."
The veteran coach admits that Duncanson may not have been the most talented athlete on his football team, but as any coach knows, hard work can more than make up for that.
"He showed up every day, worked hard and didn't get bothered by anything," Skelley said. "I wish I had that kind of ethic in more kids."
Skelley said he received about 35 to 30 texts Sunday afternoon after word of the accident got out, as teammates of Duncanson's were searching out answers and hoping to keep their teammate's memory alive in any way possible.
"It makes you proud that that part of the team sports come through loud and clear with the kids," Skelley said. "They don't want him to be forgotten."
However, Skelley admitted that not having the answer to the question of why such a horrific thing happened to such a good kid was frustrating to someone who is used to having the answers to kids' questions.
"If you ask me why we're bunting in a situation, I can tell you," Skelley said. "I've seen it when bad things happen to good kids and it's not something we can answer as to why."
Skelley recalls a string of student deaths in the mid-1980s, a situation that is never easy for someone involved in the lives of the kids on a regular basis.
"Your kids aren't supposed to die before you do," Skelley said.
As most people did, Skelley chose to remember the positive about Duncanson and his life. He relayed a story about another student who was a little disabled and was sometimes picked on by other kids and noted that Duncanson took him under his wing.
"He just had that way with people," Skelley said. "He had that ability. There's not too many kids his age who can do that.
"He was a class kid," Skelley added.