The Oxford community is mourning the loss of a 15-year-old Oxford High School student who died in a on Old State Road around midnight Friday.
Brandon Giordano, a sophomore and member of the OHS football team, was pronounced dead on the scene of the accident, which occurred at 43 Old State Road at 11:47 Friday night.
Giordano was the lone back seat passenger in a 2000 Ford Mustang convertible owned by 19-year-old Eric Ramirez, an Oxford resident who was driving the car, a police report states. Ramirez was listed in serious condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital as of midday Saturday, according to a hospital spokesperson.
A third passenger, Oxford resident Dion Major, whose age wasn’t released by police but is believed to be 15 as well, sustained minor injuries. He was the front seat passenger, police said.
The police report states that the Seymour Police Department attempted to stop Ramirez in their town but that he stepped on the gas and fled. It was unclear from the report how far police chased his Mustang.
Ramirez then drove into Oxford and turned right onto Old State Road, which is about a half-mile from the Seymour/Oxford town line.
The car traveled off the roadway on the right, struck an embankment, went airborne and crashed into a commercial building where Precision Glass and Mirror operates.
The car then landed upside down on what would have been the roof; people close to the investigation said the convertible top was down when the accident occurred. All three teens in the car were wearing their seat belts, police said.
About 35 Oxford volunteer firefighters arrived and used the Jaws of Life to remove the passenger door to get at the victims, Oxford Fire Chief Scott Pelletier said.
Firefighters used high-pressure airbags to lift the car and it took four minutes – from the time firefighters arrived on scene - to remove Dion Major, the front passenger; five minutes to remove Giordano, who was in the back seat on the driver’s side; and slightly longer than that to remove Ramirez, the driver, from the vehicle, Pelletier said.
It took longer to get Ramirez out because of where he was positioned; all told, it took firefighters 18 minutes to get everybody out of the vehicle, a good response time considering the magnitude of the crash, Pelletier said.
Emergency Medical Technicians from the Oxford volunteer ambulance crew treated all three. Giordano was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ambulance crews took separate vehicles to transport both Major and Ramirez to Waterbury Hospital. Ramirez had an incapacitating head injury, according to the police report. He was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital and was listed in serious condition there are of 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a hospital spokesman confirmed.
A Horrific Scene
Pelletier said that in his 32 years as a firefighter in Oxford, Friday’s accident ranks in one of the top five worse that he’s seen.
From looking at the accident scene, it appears the vehicle struck the building on the second floor, about 15 feet in the air. The building is at least 25 feet from the roadway, and there are no tire marks on the grass, meaning the car was high in the air when it struck the building. (See photo attached)
Several people, including some parents and their teenagers, went to the scene on Saturday to pay their respects and to get a better idea of what happened. Some said they wanted their teens to see the devastation so that it may serve as a lesson.
“Hopefully, the kids of Oxford can learn from this,” Pelletier said in a phone interview Saturday morning. “This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those involved. All we can do now as a community is be there for them and to continue to educate our children.”
School Offers Condolences, Grief Counseling
Oxford school officials held an emergency meeting Saturday morning to determine how to reach out to students and families affected by this tragedy.
Principal Frank Savo, speaking on behalf of the school staff, said thoughts and prayers go out to the individuals and families involved.
“Our focus at this point is to provide support,” he said.
That support will come in several different ways. The school has a crisis intervention team set up already at the school. It will be open until 8 tonight for anyone who needs immediate support, and school officials will remain on call throughout the weekend for anyone who needs to talk, needs grief counseling, etc.
“We’re here to help in any way possible,” Savo said.
The school has notified parents of the situation, he said. Officials have also reached out to families of students involved – Ramirez is a former OHS student – and Oxford High will continue to provide support to students next week.
On Monday, social workers will be available all day. Also, teachers, staff, guidance counselors, administrators, the superintendent and everyone else who works at the high school will avail themselves to students, Savo said.
‘A Bright and Popular Student’
That is how Savo described Giordano, who was a lineman on the school’s football team.
Messages of love for Giordano were plastered Saturday all over social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, and in the comments sections of news sites that covered the story.
Several students at the high school changed their Facebook profile pictures to the number 69 – Giordano’s football number – with “RIP Brandon Giordano” written underneath. Others posted messages saying they are reaching out to their loved ones and gave inspirational remarks, such as you can’t take life for granted because things can change in a second. And many sent their thoughts, prayers and love out to Ramirez, saying they hope and pray he will pull through.
From appearances, Giordano seemed like a happy-go-lucky young man. Just last week, this reporter saw him unloading boxes of Girl Scout cookies in Seymour with his OHS football teammates. Although it was raining, Giordano was smiling. (See photo attached)
“He was an Oxford kid…” said First Selectman George Temple. “…A typical good kid.”
‘Hug your kids’
Temple has a son who is also a sophomore on the football team at OHS and was friends with Giordano.
“It’s really affected the kids in the school,” Temple said. “It’s tough for everybody to deal with. …He was a good kid and there are a lot of kids in that category. It’s a good day to hug your kid.”
Temple and others who were on scene last night and early this morning said that’s exactly what they did when they got home. The first selectman said he arrived home at 4 a.m. and that his son was awake, very upset and trying to figure out what happened.
“I’m sure that was true throughout the town,” Temple said.
He said the emergency services crews in Oxford did a phenomenal job and should be commended.
Board of Education Chairwoman Paula Guillet was also on scene after the ambulance had transported the victims. She said the car didn’t look like a car: “It looked like a ball of aluminum foil,” she said.
She said she sends her deepest sympathies out to the families and friends involved.
“I hope everybody can support each other in this time of deep grief,” she said with a faint tinge of emotion accompanying her voice.
Another Tragic Circumstance for Family
Early this morning, when Brandon Giordano’s mother got the call every parent dreads, she ran out of the house. A candle remained lit in her bedroom.
That candle continued to burn while the home was empty, and it somehow sparked a fire in the house at 94 Christian St., Pelletier, the fire chief, said.
The fire department went to the house and contained the flames to the bedroom. That room, however, sustained fairly significant fire and smoke damage, Pelletier said.
She was told she could stay in the house, Pelletier said.
Investigation Ongoing; Several Questions Remain
The Connecticut State Police Accident Reconstruction Squad is investigating the accident. Accident reconstructions are very in-depth and can take weeks, if not months, to complete.
Oxford Resident Trooper Sgt. Dan Semosky said there is not much he can comment on at this point.
“All I can say is it’s being investigated thoroughly and that it’s now a matter of dealing with this tragedy and the kids in our community,” he said.
Several questions will be considered throughout the investigation, such as why Seymour Police attempted to pull the car over, why Ramirez didn't pull over, how long the pursuit went on, what rate of speed the car was traveling and whether there were any other contributing factors, besides rate of speed, that could have contributed to the accident.
An Oxford Patch reporter went to the Seymour Police Department on Saturday afternoon seeking a comment about the incident. A police dispatcher said Seymour Lt. Paul Satkowski is the department’s official spokesman and that all information would have to come from him. However, Satkowski was not working on Saturday and the dispatcher said we would have to try him again on Monday to get a comment.