A student athlete at The John Carroll School in Bel Air died after being injured in a crash Thursday morning near the Royal Farms store at Route 22 and Route 155 in Churchville that tied up traffic for hours, according to Maryland State Police.
Josh Hamer, 15, a sophomore, was killed, Joe Schuberth, a spokesperson for the private school, confirmed.
Josh, from North East, was in the front passenger seat of a vehicle when it collided with another car around 7:45 a.m., according to Maryland State Police.
At a vigil held at the school on Thursday evening, students and school staff and family members gathered on the baseball field to honor Josh's memory.
The crowd, which numbered between 150 and 200, covered the baseball diamond, from home plate to the pitcher’s mound. Josh had played baseball and football at John Carroll.
There were remarks and prayers from school President Richard O’Hara, Josh’s fellow students and baseball teammates, Ari Stakias, Ryan Archibald and Luke Zagurski, as well as, Gary Meyerl, the campus minister.
Meyerl remembered Josh’s “blazing fastball, his courageous spirit and his kind heart.”
“For those of us here seeking to cope with Josh’s death, may we find solace in the promise of God’s love,” Meyerl said.
Members of Josh’s family and his friends hugged each other and sobbed. Others expressed shock at the news of his sudden death.
A poster with pictures of Josh in his football and baseball uniforms was placed on the fence in front of the third base dugout. The poster was surrounded by black, white and gold balloons – the school colors – a baseball uniform in a frame, candles and bunches of flowers. More candles arranged in the form of Josh’s initials, J.H., were on the pitcher’s mound.
“He was a confident guy, everything he did, he took head on . . . he was one of those guys everybody looked up to,” Ryan Archibald, Josh’s teammate, said after the vigil, as he was surrounded by fellow players.
Ryan, a 17-year-old junior from Churchville, said he expects the baseball team will rally together as their regular season begins later this month.
“For me, personally, it puts things in perspective,” he said.
Austin Brinkman, a 14-year-old freshman who lives in Conowingo, looked at the display on the pitcher’s mound with his mother, Debbie Basler.
Austin said he and Josh became “really good friends” through the school’s junior varsity football team.
“He was a great person, smart, caring, cared for his friends, really cared about everyone actually,” Austin said. “He made you laugh when you were having a hard time.”
Austin said Josh’s death “demoralizes the whole J.C. community.”
“Even if you didn’t know him, it was hard for everyone,” he said.
Basler noted “it seems like everyone's supporting each other, which is great.”
“We’re just thinking about [Josh’s] family, parents, praying for them,” she said
Schuberth said the student's mother was at the vigil.
The vigil lasted about half an hour, but many who came stayed around talking among themselves for nearly an hour afterward.
"It is a very sad time," Schuberth said earlier Thursday afternoon. "Everyone is in mourning right now; it was a shock to everyone here, and we're doing our best to make sure we support each other."
Josh was described by Schuberth as "a great student, definitely well-liked."
Maryland State Police are investigating the crash, which happened just before school starts at 8 a.m.
Mark Peterson, 59, of North East, was driving a Volvo 850 east on Route 22 when he stopped to make a left turn to go into the Royal Farms parking lot, according to a news release from the State Police. Josh was sitting in the Volvo's front passenger seat.
N'Gai Naamone Lincoln Jr., 18, of Havre de Grace, was driving a Ford Explorer west on Route 22 as Peterson was turning left, and their vehicles collided, according to the release.
Westbound Route 22 is a two-lane road at the Royal Farms. A driver in the left-hand lane stopped their vehicle to let Peterson's vehicle cross, but Lincoln, who was driving in the right-hand lane, did not stop, "or did not see them," according to Sgt. Eric Gregson, of the MSP's Crash Team.
Gregson, who is based at the State Police Barrack in North East, is investigating the crash.
Josh suffered "serious bodily injury," according to the news release. Firefighters rescued him from the vehicle, and he was taken to University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air by EMS.
He was later flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died from his injuries at 11:43 a.m., according to police.
Peterson and Lincoln also were injured. Peterson was taken to Shock Trauma, and Lincoln was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Gregson said.
Gregson said Peterson reported he had become lost and was trying to turn around.
The westbound lanes of Route 22 were closed for about two hours and 45 minutes after the crash. Traffic heading west on Route 22, as well as traffic on Route 155, was detoured via Level Road behind Royal Farms and then back onto Route 22, according to Gregson.
School administrators learned of the accident around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Schuberth. School was closed early, and classes are canceled for Friday.
School staff, who were close with Josh, rushed to the hospital to be with his family, Schuberth said.
Grief counselors were available for students and staff Thursday, and staff will be at the school Friday if needed, according to Schuberth.
Many students had sought counseling Thursday, Schuberth said.
"Teachers and students have been feeling the weight of all this," he said. "The only way we can get through this is by coming together and supporting each other."