By Jano Tantongco
Friends of Deronne Lawrence, a 19-year-old Wyandanch man who was killed in a car crash in Wheatley Heights on Friday morning, said the teenager was a positive role model in the Wyandanch community.
“He had an infectious smile. He was always a positive role model for the kids,” said Patricia Taylor, who coached Lawrence during his time on the track team at Wyandanch High School before he graduated in 2014. “He would always come back to the school to speak with the kids whenever he was off from college.”
Lawrence died Friday after Suffolk police said he was driving northbound on Straight Path in his 2008 Honda when his vehicle began to veer into the southbound lane and struck a 2013 Jeep at around 6:45 a.m. Lawrence was pronounced dead on scene by a physician assistant from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office.
The driver of the Jeep, 31-year-old Paul Gimelli, of Dix Hills, was brought to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip by the Wyandanch-Wheatley Heights Ambulance.
Both vehicles were impounded for a safety check and police are still investigating the crash.
Taylor said on Monday that Lawrence ran in the 100- and 200-meter races for the Wyandanch Warriors, which she said Lawrence considered a “band of brothers.” Taylor also said that Lawrence attended Vaughn College in Brooklyn where he studied aviation. Whenever he came home from college, Taylor said, Lawrence would speak with and advise the younger athletes of his former team.
Matthew Rosa, current captain of the Warriors track team, said he was shocked by the news of Lawrence’s death.
“I tried calling him and the phone wouldn’t answer, and I just kept calling him,” Rosa, a senior, said on Monday. “He was actually more like a brother to me. We always hung out, no matter what we did. He was always happy, a genuine person. He’ll joke with you, he cared about you.”
A GoFundMe page (GoFundMe.com/bkv49c9t) has been created to help cover the costs of a funeral service for Lawrence, which is planned to be at the True Life Church of God in Wyandanch.
Members of Lawrence’s family could not be reach for comment before deadline Monday.