A Maryland community is devastated after the death of a teenage boy renowned for his zest for life and adventure. John DeReggi, 16, who was beginning his junior year at Clarksburg High School, was struck and killed by an Amtrak train on Sept. 14. He was being photographed alongside his girlfriend with her sister behind the camera (video below).
According to The Washington Post, the three teenagers traveled to train tracks less than a mile from DeReggi’s home in Boyds, Maryland. It is a picturesque spot many students use for photos. DeReggi and his girlfriend, Natalie Crim, were celebrating their one-year anniversary and were hoping to get romantic snapshots taken by Crim’s twin sister, who was gathering photographs for a school project.
The teens had already taken a few photos when an Amtrak train came barreling down the tracks going at speeds over 70 mph. Crim and her sister escaped by leaping out of the way, but DeReggi was less fortunate and was struck by the locomotive.
Crim quickly made a panicked phone call to DeReggi’s mother, Christine, NY Daily News reports. “John got hit by the train!” the teenager cried. Christine rushed to the scene to find her son had already died.
DeReggi was known by friends and family for being energetic and kind, reports The Washington Post. He had cultivated a lucrative business mowing neighbor’s lawns. He also collected and tended to turtles he would find by the lake near his home and enjoyed skateboarding. At school he ran on the track team and took honors classes.
He would tell friends and family “I love you” when he finished conversations.
Crim says DeReggi’s slogan was “‘Live Savage, Never Average,’” explaining that would refer to things he deemed impressive as "savage." “Where John was, he was having a good time and lighting up people’s day.”
“He was a fun-loving kid, kind of the life of the party, always a smile on his face,” says Clarksburg High School Principal Stephen Whiting. “Very energetic. Everything he did, he did with enthusiasm.”
DeReggi’s death was attributed to the public’s misconception of the perception of the speed of trains, notes The Washington Post. Rather than the rumbling behemoths that screech by in movies, trains are much quieter and move faster than the eye perceives, making it easy to get blindsided by one.
“A train in real life is different than what is often portrayed on TV and in the movies,” says Capt. Darren Francke, head of the Montgomery Police Department, which is investigating the incident.
A candlelight vigil was held for DeReggi on Sept. 15.
“We’re all walking through a nightmare right now,” said his mother. “Everywhere we turn, it’s bad.”