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Death of 2 youths in crash shakes Needham neighbors

Accident follows rash of suicides

NEEDHAM -- The impact shook Peter Reeves' s house as he sat in his living room Friday evening. As he picked up the phone to dial 911, he looked out his window and saw the crumpled back half of a dark-colored Chevy Camaro in his driveway. Nearby, next to the largest tree in the yard, was the front half.

"The boys were seated in the front part," Reeves said yesterday, standing in the foyer of his Greendale Avenue home.

Needham High School seniors Keith MacLean, 19, and Igor Guralnik, 18, were pronounced dead at the scene. The fatal crash was the latest in a series of accidents in the region that have occurred with teens behind the wheel.

Police said the 1995 Camaro was traveling northbound on Greendale Avenue at about 9:30 p.m. when it crossed into the southbound lane and struck a tree in Reeves' s yard. Large sections of the car were tossed as far as 200 feet, according to the police report, which cites speed as a factor in the accident. Police Chief Thomas J. Leary did not disclose which teen was driving, or whether alcohol was involved.

Needham School Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst said, "It's premature for me to suggest what lessons could be learned from this." He said Paul Richards, the principal at Needham High School, was sending e-mails to parents with details of the accident.

"He's advising students to drive carefully," Gutekanst said. "This is just a tragedy for the Needham community, there's no way around that."

The deaths come as the Needham community is grappling with the suicides of four local boys since 2004, the latest of which occurred in April. Educators, healthcare professionals, and others recently formed a suicide prevention coalition there.

Outside McLean's home on Rosemary Street, students cried and hugged each other under heavy rains yesterday. Ben Delaune, 17, a senior, said he met MacLean a year ago at a McDonald's.

"We did typical things, hanging out, talking to girls," DeLaune said. "He wasn't into sports but he was a very social person."

The same scene was played out roughly two miles away, at Guralnik's home. The parents of both students declined to comment.

Gutekanst said crisis counselors were available yesterday afternoon at the school. At least four students had visited the counselor by 2 p.m., walking through a crowd of people attending an arts fair at the school. Near the entrance to a long hallway where displays of birdhouses, candles, clothing, and baked goods sat on tables, two teenage girls talked about the crash. "Did you hear who it was?" one asked. The other replied "MacLean."

Earlier this year, the state Legislature considered a bill that would have doubled the minimum requirements for behind-the-wheel training and more than tripled the number of hours prospective drivers have to spend under adult supervision, but it was dropped due to widespread opposition.

In October 2005, Shauna Murphy, 17, and her sister Meghan, 15, of Southborough were killed when the SUV driven by Shauna crashed into a utility pole. In March, Andrea Goncalves, 17, and her 10-year-old brother, Joshua, of Hopkinton, were killed when the car she was driving ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. Authorities said speed was a factor in the accident. In May, Victoria "Torri" Wightman, 16, of Hull was killed when the car she was riding in hit a shallow puddle in the middle of Route 106 in Plympton and swerved into traffic. Three other teens were seriously injured, including 18-year-old driver Erin Leith . At least three other teens have been killed in crashes this year in which a teen was behind the wheel.

When he moved into his home 30 years ago, Reeves said, people told him that Greendale Avenue often drew speeders. "I see people speeding down here all the time. It's a long road, and it's easy to go fast."

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in Sunday's City & Region section about a fatal crash in Needham misstated the gender of four suicides in the town since 2004. Three were boys and one was a girl, according to the Needham Coalition for Suicide Prevention.)

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