FAIRPORT, N.Y. – They were giddy after a weekend of high school graduation parties, still reminiscing about their triumph at a national cheerleading contest, and were lining up a farewell summer of pool parties and sleepovers before heading off to college.
Five teens, on their way to a vacation home Tuesday night, were in a sport utility vehicle that had just passed a van on a two-lane highway when it swerved back into oncoming traffic and hit a tractor-trailer. All were killed in the fiery crash, which four friends traveling in another car witnessed.
“We cheerleaded together and we were all best friends,” said Keisha Koneski, 18. “In our car, we could see the truck coming, and we all started screaming.”
The tragedy in western New York’s Finger Lakes region happened just five days after the teens graduated from Fairport High School, triggering an outpouring of emotion in this Erie Canal village of 6,000 near Rochester.
“It could be any five that were lost; we would grieve the same,” said Debra Tandoi, a town official who works in the village’s schools. “Our hearts just explode.”
Killed were Bailey Goodman and Meredith McClure, both 17, and 18-year-olds Sara Monnat, Hannah Congdon and Katherine “Katie” Shirley. All five were cheerleaders on Fairport High’s varsity team, but Shirley left the squad in her freshman year.
In March, the cheerleading team took first place in its category at the American Open National Cheer and Dance Championship in Orlando, Fla. McClure placed second in solo cheering in the 16-to-18-year-old bracket. The team also placed in several regional and state competitions this year.