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"Rusty was one of my best friendshe just meant so much to me. I have a lot of good memories; I have just got to remember that they will outlast the pain."

As a gray sky let loose a pelting hailstorm across a grassy hillside of Meyer Ranch Park at dusk Monday, more than 100 teens, there to honor 16-year-old friends Justin Dorrance of Evergreen and Clyde "Rusty" Gallegos of Pine, vanished into a stand of trees to wait for a shift in the weather.

The hail ceased but turned to a steady rain, yet their resolve to hold a candlelight vigil remained firm as they flicked lighters repeatedly to ensure their candles held a flame, then stood shoulder to shoulder in a great circle for a moment of silence.

Most words were uttered privately as the teens huddled and huggedwith the exception of an occasional outburst when someone cried out above the rain, "I love you Justin and Rusty!"

Scattered among them were a few parents who were more than grateful that their sons had been spared in a car crash that cost the lives of the two teens on May 11, on South Elk Creek Road near Sphinx Park.

Parents such as Barbara Moyce, whose son Matthew McGann was pulled to safety: "I just wish they could have all walked away." And parent Talitha Emarine, mother of 16-year-old survivor Shane Mathre and a 6-day-old son, Hammer, who was bundled in her lap.

Emarine was overcome with grief when Shane called her during an ambulance ride to Denver last Friday to inform her of the accident. He was safe, he told her, but his friend Justin "didn't make it."

Seven teens ranging in age from 15 to 17 were traveling in a Jeep sport utility vehicle driven by Justin Dorrance that afternoon when the vehicle entered a narrow section of the road, slid off the side and came to rest upside down in Elk Creek, which was filled with rushing water from recent spring snows.

Law enforcement officials are still piecing together what happened after the rollover, and so are family and friends.

But one thing was clear to students Monday night regarding the companions they had lostthese boys were special; one was remembered by family as a "people person," playful, a "confidant" to friends; the other was a quiet, introspective teengenuine, "calm and centered"who befriended many.

According to police reports, speed was not a factor in the rollover, and the teens were sensitive to that detail.

"It's not like he was being a reckless teen," one female friend of Justin said at the vigil. The son of her school bus driver had driven into the same creek last year on another section of the road, the teen said, and she believes the road to be "dangerous."

While three of the students were able to exit the Jeep soon after the crash, some through a rear window, others remained trapped as the boys tried to free them. Those three included Conifer teens Patrick McIntyre, 16, Reece Stapish, 16, and John "Tucker" Frost, 17, of Littleton.

Tucker Frost, the friends say, rescued Shane Mathre, 16, from the passenger seat and Matthew McGann, 15, who was pinned by his seat belt in the center of the backseat next to Rusty. Tucker also pulled Rusty from the vehicle, though he was pronounced dead at St. Anthony Hospital after he was taken there by Flight for Life.

Tucker was reserved about the experience and said little at the ceremony, other than to acknowledge the three rescues. But others who knew him admired him greatly for what he had done.

"Tucker is a stud, man!" said a friend named Luke. "I love that kid."

Matthew McGann, a passenger in the middle of the back seat, remembers that the right side of the car "just dropped off" that fateful day.

"The road narrowed really fast, and the edge gave awaywhen we were going sideways, everyone was like, 'Oh my God!' " McGann said.

Next thing McGann knew, he was hanging upside down, strapped in his seat belt, his head in water. He lost his vision for a time, then regained it, he said, as he struggled to hold his head up to reach a small breathing space of "only a couple of inches" above the river's current.

"I called out, 'Can anyone hear me?' " McGann said. He heard the voices of friends say, "Stay calm." Then, they yelled at him to "open the door." He managed to unlock the door, then open it, he said.

"Tucker climbed in and pulled me out; he had a small knife on him (to cut the seat belt)," McGann said, noting it took about 25 minutes to free him and emergency personnel had arrived. "They hooked up a tow rope to a tree, and I grabbed onto that."

The seat belt issue also was sensitive for the teens because they believe all but the two boys in the far back compartment of the five-passenger Jeep were restrained, according to what friends have told them, despite initial police reports to the contrary.

It could be awhile before the shock passes for McGann and the others involved in the accidentfor the immensity of it to lift and more clarity to surface.

But the somber teens seemed satisfied Monday that they had taken the first step in the healing process.

After the clouds were spent of moisture and the dark gray sky began to clear, they headed back down the hillside to their cars, leaving fresh, deep footprints along the muddy walkways.

"Rusty was one of my best friendshe just meant so much to me," Alyssa Elzinga said later that night. "I have a lot of good memories; I have just got to remember that they will outlast the pain."

















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