Stunned Smithtown high school students Thursday remembered a popular classmate struck and killed by a Manhattan subway train as a friendly and confident athlete, beloved by his peers and teachers alike.
Liam Armstrong of Nesconset, a senior preparing to join the Marine Corps after graduation, died Tuesday evening after he attempted to cross the subway tracks on foot at the West 79th Street and Broadway station. He was celebrating his 18th birthday with two friends -- Dakota Walsh and Ryan Van Duyne -- when he was struck and killed by a northbound No. 2 train.
Police said they found a broken bottle of rum in Armstrong's backpack. The teens were heading to Greenwich Village when they accidentally boarded a northbound train near Central Park. One student crossed four tracks to the downtown platform and Armstrong followed; the last stayed behind.
Ariam Frezghi, 21, of the Bronx, was on the train when it struck Armstrong.
"I knew that it was bad news, but I had no idea what it was," said the Stony Brook University student. "I was completely shocked."
Armstrong, who was so well liked at Smithtown High School East that he could float with ease among the school's social circles, leaves behind heartsick peers.
Maria DeSomma, 18, a senior at Smithtown High School East, had known Armstrong since they both attended Great Hollow Middle School. She wasn't among his closest friends -- including a group of lacrosse players so grief-stricken they declined to talk -- but shared two classes with him this year; English and forensic science.
She said he was a regular contributor to both and his absence will leave an enormous void at the school.
"It's going to be weird walking into class with him not being there," she said Thursday. "He was liked by the whole student body."
DeSomma attended a candlelight vigil for Armstrong on Wednesday night at the high school, where students hugged, cried and said the Hail Mary in his honor, she said.
Danielle Nacewicz, 18, and a recent graduate of the school, said Armstrong was an attentive friend and an outgoing student who could talk to anyone.
"If you needed him, he was there," said Nacewicz, who also attended the vigil. "He'd be there in a second no matter what."
Smithtown Superintendent Anthony Annunziato said the school has not planned any on-campus memorial service and were not yet aware of funeral arrangements.
Armstrong's family has declined to talk, and his coaches have not returned calls.