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One year since crash kills two teens, injures two
HALFMOON -- One year ago this weekend, tragedy struck the Capital Region as two seventeen year-olds were killed in a horrific car accident on the Northway, just north of the Twin Bridges. Two others were badly injured. They were all athletes out for a night together to watch a basketball game when their car was struck by that of a 23 year-old driver who admitted to being under the influence at the time. Friday loved ones gathered to remember the young lives lost, and the ones still mending broken hearts.
"We still talk about him in the present," said Regina Stewart, mother of Christopher Stewart. "We still sign cards with Christopher's name on it because he's not gone. That's not the end of Christopher."
His spirit is seen in a sea of green, many team and classmates of Chris Stewart's wore Shenendehowa colors and his football number at a benefit Friday. It was called "Stewz Bowl," held at the Spare Time Lanes in Halfmoon, organized by his parents to raise money for the Shen Educational Foundation.
Stewart and Deanna Rivers were killed in an accident on the Northway last year. The Shenendehowa students were out with friends when Dennis Drue's car crashed in to theirs. Stewart's parents had to bury their son.
"You get days like yesterday for Thanksgiving and that's when the loss really sets in," said Stewart's father Michael.
Drue admitted guilt just days before his trial was to begin. He had been drinking, texting, and speeding when his car hit Stewart's. That accident also injured Matt Hardy and Shaker student Bailey Wind. She just turned eighteen, is away at school, and was in the car with Stewart -- her high school sweetheart.
"When I'm in Tennessee and I'm having a bad day, I'm lucky to be alive," Wind said. "I'm at my dream school doing what I love."
The confusion, anger, sadness, disbelief, the flashing lights of that night have flashed through the mind of this community ever since. But just days before the one-year mark, a benefit in Stewart's name raising money for the Shen Educational Foundation shows these families just what their kids were all about.
Bailey Wind's mother Dawn said, "this is what keeps us going -- the support and the incredible words -- they say she's an inspiration and that kindness is what helps us get through every single day."
Chris Stewart's father gets to be proud of his son seeing all the friends which came out for the benefit. "We've learned a lot more about our son than we even knew -- in terms of the stories told to us by classmates, younger people, parents, and people's lives that he's touched and will continue to touch," Michael said.
A girlfriend sees the impact her guy made. "I love to keep his memory alive," Wind said. "Doing stuff like this always makes me happy."
A mother finds a little golden moment in her struggle. Regina Stewart said, "I talk to him every day, every morning. Christopher's ashes are in his bedroom. I talk to him the same as if I was calling out to him in the morning and saying good morning to him before he would hop on the bus. He's not gone."
Wind is continuing her recovery. She also wrote a book about loss and life, and the struggle in between. She says she'll be back fully on board with the University of Tennessee diving team next year. She'd have it no other way for her family -- her mom, or the much larger family which has grown in the last year.
Drue will be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to 58 counts for causing the crash. He faces 5-15 years in prison.
Also this week, Wind and Hardy filed a lawsuit against Drue for $1 million for damages.