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New Jersey students remember classmates killed in car accident

Football practice resumed at New Jersey’s Mainland Regional High after the tragic weekend car accident which killed four of the team’s players and injured four others. The accident cast a cloud over the start of the school year and made reorganizing the football team roster slightly awkward for coaches.

“We talked as a staff on Monday about how we have to move kids into their spots,” the school football coach said. “That’s a tough thing to ask.”

Authorities say that the teens were killed as they were driving to a pre-season football gathering at a restaurant. The 17-year-old football player was driving seven of his teammates in a SUV. He lost control of the vehicle on Garden State Parkway upon passing over a crest on the highway and seeing abruptly stopped traffic.

The football team is still mourning the loss of some of its most beloved players, and the coaches are attempting to restore normalcy to the students’ lives by mixing up things like roll call to make the absence of the players less painfully obvious. Despite the grave nature of the accident, practice at the New Jersey high school will continue.

“There’s a special significance to this practice, obviously – it’s our first without them,” the team quarterback said. “Being in the locker room was certainly different with four personalities gone that we loved so much.”

In addition to continuing football practice, the teens were remembered in other ways, including a “paddle-out” ceremony at the 30th Street beach in Longport.

Participants in the paddle-out and lifeguards held a moment of silence before tossing rose petals in the rolling waters and slowly paddling back to the shore.

“We did it for them,” said a 16-year-old mourner.

“Anything that helps to put the pain away is absolutely crucial,” said a 17-year-old senior at the high school. “It just shows how many lives were affected by this.”

Source: Press of Atlantic City, “Mainland football team holds first practices since weekend accident killed four players,” Emily Previti, Aug. 24, 2011

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