|Birth: ||Nov. 15, 1991|
|Death: ||Aug. 15, 2009|
WEST BARNSTABLE — A local teenager's dreams of football camp and art school ended yesterday in a Route 6 crash.
Christopher Leonard, 17, of South Dennis was killed instantly when the Jeep Wrangler driven by his girlfriend, rolled over in the westbound lane between Exit 6 and Exit 5 at 12:13 p.m., according to Leonard's family and the state police.
The state police would not comment on the cause of the accident. But Leonard's stepmother his girlfriend had just pulled onto the highway, then had to swerve when cars ahead of her suddenly slowed down. She lost control and the vehicle flipped.
The friend was taken to Cape Cod Hospital with minor injuries, according to state police.
"I know she is devastated and that she blames herself," Debbie Shea, Leonard's stepmother, said in an emotional interview with the Times at the family's South Dennis home. "But it was an accident. It's not her fault."
At least half of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School football team rushed to Cape Cod Hospital yesterday afternoon as word of the tragedy spread, Shea said.
Leonard was passionate about football and his teammates. Besides football, he was on the high school baseball team and loved to snowboard, said his father, Jim Leonard.
"He just loved sports," Shea said. "His buddies on the football team were his second family."
Leonard was excited about football camp starting in two weeks and about being a high school senior.
From a young age, he loved to draw. Shea pulled out his most recent Mother's Day card to her. The card displayed his affection for her and his talent.
He hoped to become a freelance artist one day.
"He planned to go to college for art," his father said.
In the meantime, he lived every day to the fullest, Shea said.
Friends were traveling behind them. They saw the crash and called his parents within minutes.
Leonard was trapped underneath the Jeep. His friends tried in vain to lift the vehicle, Shea said.
"The state trooper said he died instantly," his stepmother said.
The contents of the Jeep, including notebooks and juice bottles, were spilled onto the grass on the highway shoulder. As investigators worked at the scene, the vehicle was mostly covered with tarps.
The crash slowed traffic to a crawl from before Exit 6, reducing the roadway to one lane for several hours as state police and the West Barnstable Fire Department responded to the crash.
Burial details will be added later.
Christopher Leonard, 17, of South Dennis, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009.
Christopher is survived by his father, Jim Leonard; stepmother, Debbie; and four sisters, Carly, Courtney, Madison and Savannah. He is also survived by his grandparents, many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Visitation will be on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, at Dennis-Yarmouth High School in the gymnasium from 4 to 8 p.m. Burial will take place in Chicago, Ill.
CAPE COD - Family and friends remembered Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School senior Christopher Leonard Wednesday afternoon in the school's gymnasium. It was a fitting place to honor a son, a friend, a classmate, an athlete and a student who died Aug. 15 in a rollover accident on Route 6 in Barnstable.
The accident happened just after noon. Leonard, of South Dennis, was riding in a Jeep Wrangler driven by his girlfriend, Savannah Szwarc, 19, of Sandwich. The couple had planned to visit Szwarc's mother. According to state police reports, Leonard died instantly, trapped beneath the Jeep.
Szwarc was treated and released from Cape Cod Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
No charges have been filed in connection with the incident, which is still under investigation by the state police.
Grief counseling was available Monday and Tuesday at the high school's guidance office. Principal Ken Jenks said he's not sure how the school will address Leonard's untimely death once school begins Sept. 8.
"We will be ready to provide more support, and our guidance and counseling staff will be monitoring and providing assistance as sports practices begin next week and school starts in September," he said. "We'll definitely have a moment of silence on opening day (Tuesday, Sept. 8) in Chris' memory. We want to be respectful and supportive."
D-Y teacher and football coach Paul Funk said Tuesday that teammates will honor Leonard by wearing a small number 9, Leonard's uniform number, on their jerseys this season.
"The football team will wear their game shirts during calling hours at the high school," Funk said.
Leonard played baseball for D-Y his freshman and sophomore years. He was also passionate about art and planned to attend art school following graduation.
Clearly saddened by this unexpected loss, Jenks said he hopes the new school year, with its own demands, will turn students' attention away from their grief and help them heal.
Assistant Principal Tony Morrison described Leonard's death as "a blow to us at D-Y. This was a good kid, who was well liked, gone early. I know he will be missed."
Morrison, who monitors the cafeteria, said he knows the exact lunch table where Leonard sat, and that spot will draw his eyes this year.
D-Y guidance counselor Nicole D'Errico described Leonard as an honest, sincere young man "who made some very positive strides during his time at D-Y. He was gregarious, learned from his mistakes and was always respectful and kind. In short, he was a joy to know."
Leonard's death is the second to shake the D-Y community this summer. Last month, Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos of Yarmouth Port was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
"Sadness will start off our school year, but we will be OK," Morrison said.
Following Wednesday's visitation, Leonard's body was flown to Chicago for burial.
Christopher James Leonard formerly of Arlington Heights Visitation for Christopher James Leonard, 17, of South Dennis, Mass., will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, at the Meadows Funeral Home, 3615 Kirchoff Road (½ block east of Route 53), Rolling Meadows, where family and friends will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, before proceeding to St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, for interment services. Born Nov. 15, 1991, in Chicago, he died Aug. 15, 2009, as a result of an auto accident. Christopher was the son of James and Sandra (nee Sumner) Leonard and brother of Carley, Madison and Cortney.
Saint Joseph Cemetery
Created by: ditdit
Record added: Aug 16, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 40728666
I miss you everyday. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if you were still here. I picture us being close and having talks and walks and being good friends, not just mother and son. I missed so much time I could have spent with you. Please know t...(Read more)|
Added: Jun. 9, 2015
Christopher, I wanted to tell you that we are thinking about you as always. Carley and I spent Christmas together this year, and it was wonderful. The only thing that could have made it any better is if you were there and your sister Courtney. You are al...(Read more)|
Added: Dec. 28, 2014
I wanted to let you know that we laid the grave marker for you. It is in Majestic Red which Carley said you would like. It also has the St. Christopher metal engraved, that was for me. I miss you so much and wanted you to know that I was with your sist...(Read more)|
Added: Jun. 29, 2014
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