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Officials: St. Anthony’s High School senior killed in upstate crash

St. Anthony's High School senior Anthony Pagano, 17,

St. Anthony's High School senior Anthony Pagano, 17, was killed in a car crash on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, near Albany, New York State police said. Credit: St. Anthony’s High School via Facebook

A St. Anthony’s High School senior known as a smart student and popular athlete was killed in a car crash near Albany after he fell asleep at the wheel and smashed into a tree on Interstate 87, New York State police said Monday.

Anthony W. Pagano, 17, was driving south about 5:30 a.m. Saturday near the town of Colonie with a male passenger when he swerved off the highway from the center lane and hit a tree on the eastern shoulder, said State Trooper Mark Cepiel.

The vehicle “continued south spinning, came to rest and was on fire,” Cepiel said.

Pagano, a member of St. Anthony’s varsity baseball team, was pronounced dead at Albany Medical Center, Cepiel said.

The passenger, whom Cepiel declined to identify, was not injured. Both Pagano and the passenger were wearing seat belts, Cepiel said.

St. Anthony’s principal Brother Gary Cregan said members of the school community were in shock over the death of one of the most promising members of the senior class.

“Anthony was an utter gentleman at all points of his high school career,” Cregan said in an interview. “He had a real love of baseball — that was his passion.”

He said Pagano “had a very beautiful girlfriend. I always saw them going together . . . They had a beautiful, appropriate relationship. Like a true teenager, baseball and his high school sweetheart were his two passions, besides his family.”

Paul Washington, the school’s admissions director and an economics teacher who had Pagano in his class this year, said the teenager had a low-key presence in the classroom but was “super smart.”

Pagano was “definitely somebody I could tell everybody knew him. He was very popular with all the kids in the class,” Washington said. “But he wasn’t the sort of guy that ever tried to draw attention to himself. He was just kind of a humble kid that way.”

Pagano played baseball for his first three years at St. Anthony’s, and was gearing up to try to break into the varsity starting lineup this spring, said John Phelan, the varsity baseball coach. Pagano, a righthanded outfielder, spent the offseason lifting weights and attending team hitting sessions.

Pagano “was a really good kid. Anything you asked him to do, it was done, no questions asked . . . ” Phelan said. He “was probably the ultimate team guy.”

During the team’s annual trip last year to Disneyland to start their season with a series of games, Pagano cajoled sometimes tired and reluctant coaches to go on rides after the team had completed a doubleheader during the day, Phelan said.

Phelan said he spent the last couple of days telephoning Pagano’s teammates to inform them of the tragedy.

“My kids are heartbroken,” he said. “It’s going to take some time picking up the pieces.”

A wake is scheduled Wednesday and Thursday at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station, followed by a funeral Mass at St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church in Melville Friday.

“Death is never easy, but the death of a young person is particularly heartbreaking and difficult to accept,” Cregan said in a message posted on St. Anthony’s website. “As Roman Catholics, we must rely on our faith to give us strength in the face of tragedy, and to help us understand why a young man on the verge of adulthood would be taken from us far too soon.”

With Lisa Irizarry

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