Family, friends, the school community and others turned to social networking sites to express their grief following the death of four Mainland Regional High School football players in a Saturday morning car crash.
Killed were Edgar Bozzi of Somers Point, Casey Brenner of Northfield, Dean Khoury of Linwood, and Nick Conner of Northfield. They died in a one-vehicle accident on the Garden State Parkway less than an hour after a football practice at the school ended.
As of 12:10 a.m. today, a sympathy Facebook page titled "R.I.P. Mainland HS Boys. Gone but never forgotten," had attracted more than 9,900 followers. Between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., more than 2,200 signed up to follow the page dedicated to the lives that were lost.
Allison Brenner Gustray, an aunt of one of the teens, shared her feelings on the accident. More than a dozen people responded to Gustray online.
"My nephew, Casey, was one of the boys. Please pray for our family. He was a wonderful, thoughtful young man, who I love very much," Gustray wrote.
One commenter, Lauren Lock, who attended Absegami High School, wrote that the accident reminded her of another recent tragedy.
"It brings me back to when I lost Katie Murray. The pain never ends," Lock wrote. "I hope these families and friends find comfort and support in the long journey they're about to take. Be kind to everyone."
Murray, 17, was killed in a car crash in Mullica Township last year. The Oakcrest High School senior was driving to meet a friend when her car left the roadway and struck a tree.
Online sympathy pages, such as the one for the boys who died Saturday, have become an increasingly popular outlet for mourners, attracting thousands of followers in less than a day. In June a Facebook page for 11-year-old Abiah Jones, who died in a fall from a Ferris wheel on Morey's Piers, gathered more than 6,000 followers in the first day it was created.
Comments on the site for the Mainland teens came from those who had been close to the victims and from others who had no apparent ties to the tragedy.
"As a parent, I cannot imagine the pain that these families are feeling. Such a senseless tragedy," Debi Linda Kiamos wrote. "Hope the injured recover quickly. Thoughts and prayers to all involved, and may you find strength in the days to come."
A number of commenters stressed that Mainland is a tight-knit community. Current students and alumni joined together on the site, saying they would all support each other.
"Today's a very sad day for our entire community," wrote Jose Santos, identified as a 2009 Mainland graduate on Facebook. "We grew up with these kids, and my heart and prayers go out to my two good friends, Shaun Brenner and Drew Khoury, as well as the rest of the families and friends of the kids involved in this horrific tragedy. Hope you guys know that you don't have to take this pain by yourself."
A.J. Kooz, identified as a 2011 Mainland graduate on Facebook, said the four teens had had bright futures.
"None of you got to reach the big 18. I'm still in shock," Kooz wrote. "Nothing around here will ever be the same. You four will never be forgotten by any of us. It's not fair, God took you guys away from us so soon."
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