A community's loss

The Baltimore Sun

Less than two weeks ago, Brian A. Wilson's family proudly watched as the outstanding scholar and varsity athlete walked across the stage to receive his diploma with honors from Havre de Grace High School. Now the family is planning a funeral service for their 17-year-old son in the same school auditorium.

Wilson died at Christiana Trauma Center in Newark, Del., early Sunday after an accident on Route 1 near Dover. He was riding home with a friend at the end of the traditional senior week at the beach in Ocean City when a drunken driver rear-ended their car, police said.

"At least half of Brian's class and their families and their teachers waited outside the hospital Saturday night," said his mother, Denise Wilson. "They waited for the emergency helicopter to arrive and they formed a prayer circle in front of the emergency room."

Police said warrants have been issued for Andrew Rankin, 28, of New Castle, Del., the driver of the other car. Rankin, who remains hospitalized, will be charged with vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol, police said.

Rankin was previously convicted of DUI in March 2005, according to Delaware police and court records.

On May 28, Wilson had stood on the stage at Havre de Grace High School with about 150 classmates and accepted several awards that included a scholarship to Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. He planned to study medical technology and expected to try out for the college band and soccer team.

"It is so overwhelming to think that Brian has lost his life when he had so much still left to do," said his mother. The family is taking great comfort from the outpouring of support from their Harford County community, she said.

The accident occurred on northbound Route 1. Nathan Flanery, 18, was driving his 1997 Mazda sedan with Wilson in the passenger seat. Flanery slowed to avoid debris in the road - a hood had fallen off a station wagon just ahead of them, authorities said. Rankin, driving a Mercedes sedan, failed to reduce speed and rammed the rear of the Mazda, police said.

Wilson was taken to Kent General Hospital and then flown by helicopter to the hospital in Newark.

Teachers and classmates spoke yesterday of the young man who was captain of the soccer and lacrosse teams, who won medals on the swim team and worked in the summer as a lifeguard. Wilson was a member of the National Honor Society, the student council and was vice president of the school band.

"He was so musically inclined that he could listen to a tune on the radio and then play it on trumpet or piano," said his mother. "I know he would have made the college band."

Music came naturally to the young man who had played the trumpet since elementary school and won a seat in the all-county band the last three years.

"Brian made hard work look fun," said Richard Hauf, the high school band director. "He did everything well and with a deep commitment. But he still found ways to make everyone laugh. You could see the bonds he built at the hospital Saturday night."

Drew Monath, fellow graduate and teammate, said, "We were all there for each other and for Brian's family. He had so many friends and was definitely a team player. He was always making jokes and making us laugh."

With fewer than 150 students in the class and fewer than 700 in the school, everyone knew each other fairly well, said Principal M. Patricia Walling. She invited the graduates back yesterday where they were able to meet with grief counselors along with other students. She also made the chorus room, where Wilson often rehearsed with other singers, available for those who just wanted to get together.

"This is a resilient community who will support each other," Walling said. "This is a big loss for the graduates and for all of us. The seniors will always be a part of our school. We invited them back to their comfort zone, and I guess we had a school-based wake."

Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday.

Paying final tribute in the school where he excelled brings solace to the family, Denise Wilson said.

"Brian was always so comfortable there," she said.

Survivors also include his father, William L. Wilson; two brothers, Daniel and Zachary; a sister, Christina; and grandparents Violetta Duvall, Clarence B. Cunha, Betty Sholly, Hilda Wilson and Howard Ware.


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