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Brushton community shocked, grieving for crash victims


BRUSHTON - The Brushton-Moira Central School community is grieving its second tragedy in less than a year after a multi-vehicle crash on U.S. Route 11 in Antwerp killed six people, including a Brushton-Moira student, alumna and former teacher.

The incident claimed sisters Caitlyn and Lauryn Dana, their mother Laurie Dana, and their grandmother Janet Dana. Also killed was Shannon Planty, a friend of the sisters and a Brushton-Moira student.

Brushton-Moira Shared Superintendent Beverly Ouderkirk said the district plans to have the school building open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday to provide resources to help students and community members deal with the deaths.

She said she was unsure of Ms. Planty’s grade.

“I feel badly saying that,” Ms. Ouderkirk said. “I think she was a popular and very active young lady.”

Franklin County Legislator Sue Robideau, who said she was “very good friends” with Janet Dana, called the president of the Moira Historical Society and former Brushton-Moira teacher “very community-minded, no doubt about it.” At the time of her death, Ms. Dana was in charge of organizing the upcoming Moira Heritage Day, and Ms. Robideau said she and other society members were wondering what to do now.

“Janet would say, ‘Tough it up, girl,’” Ms. Robideau said, noting the show will still go on as planned. “I can hear her now. ... She loved the museum. She’d give you the shirt off her back. That’s the kind of person she was, and she was very set in her opinions.”

Ms. Robideau said she drove immediately to Janet Dana’s home from Thursday’s county Board of Legislators meeting to be with Janet Dana’s husband and son.

“They’re kind of in shock,” Ms. Robideau said of the family members, which includes Janet Dana’s daughter, who is currently on vacation in Europe. “You can’t be otherwise. It’s pretty tough. ... They don’t know what to do.”

When the building opens on Monday, Ms. Ouderkirk said, there will be a memorial wall set up in the hallway outside the auditorium on which anyone can leave a condolence message, and the wall will be left up throughout the week.

Ms. Ouderkirk said she is in the process of contacting local clergy to assist anyone seeking to talk through their grief, and counselors, including one shared between Brushton-Moira and St. Regis Falls Central School, will also be on hand to help students and community members who come to the school.

“Those folks will be available,” she said, adding the resources will be posted in the cafeteria at door 4. “Knowing we’re still healing from December, we just feel we want to be here for people.”

Thursday’s crash comes less than eight months after a December car crash that killed Brushton-Moira junior Brooke Lyon and also injured fellow Brushton-Moira juniors Alexis Collette and Tanya Menke.

“It’s hard enough to have one of these tragedies, and to have another one so soon, it takes a lot out of people,” Ouderkirk said. “It’s just so hard. It reminds us of how delicate life is and we should enjoy each day.”

Ms. Robideau said Janet Dana “adopted” people in the community to take care of, including an elderly man in the community for whom she made and delivered lunches. In addition to the family, Ms. Robideau said she went to be with that man and another man with whom Dana was close.

“I had to go check on Timmy,” she said. “It’s kind of hard.”

While Heritage Day will continue as planned, Ms. Robideau said she does not know if the annual celebration will include a memorial to Janet Dana.

Ms. Ouderkirk noted December’s tragedy brought the community together to support one another through their grief, and she said she expects to see that bond happen in this tragedy as well.

“I know they will do that again,” she said. “That’s a huge hole for their families, but it’s also a hole for the people who knew them.”

Ms. Ouderkirk noted some of the people killed in the crash were family members, in addition to being a part of the Brushton-Moira community.

“You’ve got tons of memories there,” she said. “So many connections. ... We need to understand each other and be there for each other.”

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