A star basketball player from Beaver County on his way to the beach with his friends died early Saturday when he wrecked his car on a West Virginia highway.
J.C. Lansberry, 18, a standout senior point guard at Monaca High School last season, was killed when the car he was driving rolled over on Interstate 77 at 6:43 a.m., near the town of Athens, W.Va., just north of the Virginia border.
Mr. Lansberry, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected as the car flipped.
His three passengers, including his girlfriend, Casey Crudden, suffered only minor injuries and are recovering at home.
Mr. Lansberry, Ms. Crudden and nine of their friends from Monaca High, many of them recent graduates, left Saturday at 1 a.m. in three cars headed for Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Carol Crudden, Casey's mother, had gone ahead to prepare the vacation condominum for their arrival. She was there when they called to tell her about the accident.
No one is sure why it happened.
She said her daughter told her it was so sudden.
The teens told state police they had stopped for gasoline and were headed south again, with Mr. Lansberry in the lead, when the accident occurred.
Ms. Crudden said her daughter and two other young men in the car, Josh Nadzam and Brandon DeFelice, were drifting in and out of sleep.
Friends in the two cars behind Mr. Lansberry's told police they saw Mr. Lansberry drive into the median, veer toward the guardrail and then back into the median, where the car rolled several times.
The crash has devastated the tight-knit group. Monaca is a small town and its high school is tiny; the class of 2006 numbered only 62. The Myrtle Beach trip was supposed to be a final road trip to celebrate high school.
"They've known each other forever," said Carol Crudden. "They'd been planning this trip since January -- where they would stop, where they would eat. They had it all planned."
Mr. Lansberry was a popular athlete who had helped turn around the school's previously moribund basketball program. He was the leading scorer last season.
"I ask him to handle the ball 90 percent of the time and he has to score points to keep us in games," his coach, Tom Karzewski, said in February.
Mr. Lansberry planned to attend Penn State University's Beaver campus in the fall.
Carol Crudden, who had known Mr. Lansberry since he was in first grade, said her daughter had been his girlfriend for a year-and-a-half.
"He was a permanent fixture at our house," she said. "He was polite. A gentleman. Still opening doors for people. Every time he came to pick up [Casey], he would hold the car door open for her. How many kids do that these days?"
Simpson Funeral Home in Monaca is handling arrangements, which were not complete yesterday.
Torsten Ove can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-2620.