Wreck that killed teen still under investigation


State Police say they are continuing their investigation into the accident in which a Harford County teen-ager was killed when his Chevrolet was struck in Rising Sun by a State Police cruiser en route to a domestic-dispute call.

Jonathan David Popa, 17, of the 2100 block of Oaklyn Drive in Fallston, was pronounced dead at Harford Memorial Hospital shortly after yesterday's 12:01 a.m. accident, police said.

The accident occurred on U.S. 1, just north of Connolly Road, State Police said. As Popa made a U-turn in a westwardly direction, a southbound police cruiser driven by Trooper Rodney Gene Manuel, crested a hill, its lights and siren on.

The police car broadsided Popa's silver 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier, State Police said. The impact forced both cars off the right side of the road.

Trooper Manuel, 23, a three-year veteran at the Northeast barracks, was flown by State Police helicopter to the Shock-Trauma Unit at Baltimore, where he was treated for minor injuries and released at 11:15 a.m. yesterday, a hospital spokesman said.

It wasn't immediately known how fast either car was going, State Police said, and no charges have been filed.

State Police did say the trooper's seat belt was fastened, but Popa's wasn't.

In the community of Laurel Brook in Fallston, neighbors reacted to the Popa youth's death with shock.

"It's a real loss," one neighbor said. "He was just a wonderful boy. A good boy, who never got into any trouble."

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she had seen Popa the night of the accident as he departed his home to go on a double date with friends. She said he already had taken his date home when the accident occurred.

"His parents are like any other parents, they're taking the news very hard," she said.

Popa was the second eldest of two boys and two girls. He graduated from Harford Christian School this year, where he played basketball, neighbors said.

They said the teen-ager had talked with the basketball coach at Harford Community College about playing ball there.

Janet Kiesling, a neighbor, said, "He had cut my grass. He seemed like a well-mannered boy."

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