Prayer Service Held for Dominik Pettey, D.C. Student Killed in Beltway Crash

A District of Columbia high school held a special prayer service Monday to remember 17-year-old Dominik Liam Pettey, who was killed in a crash on the Capital Beltway over the weekend.

The death of Pettey, a hockey player known as Dom, has rocked the community of Gonzaga College High School, an all-boys' Catholic school in Northwest D.C.

"He was one of those guys that walked into a rink and immediately you're just drawn to him," said Pettey's former coach Duante' Abercrombie.

Father Mark Knestout, the Pettey family's priest, had known Dominik since he was a toddler, and had watched him grow into a promising young man whom he admired.

"As the Lord reminds us, tragedy happens to both the good and the bad, and Dominik was a great kid," he said.

Knestout has known Dominik's parents for 15 years and met with them Monday.

"They're doing well under the circumstances," he said. "Obviously, emotions are very, very raw and it's hard for them."

Knestout is a priest at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Bethesda. He will deliver Dominik's funeral mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac on Saturday.

"We accept what has happened, but we also know in our faith, he's in God's hands," Knestout said Monday.

Dominik was a senior at Gonzaga. On Monday, some classmates walked to school with their heads down; others had arms draped around each others' shoulders. Instead of attending first-block classes Monday morning, they gathered at St. Aloysius Church for a prayer session.

"We're family. We're brothers here and it's a really tough loss," said a classmate.

Pettey, of Potomac, Maryland, had gone out with friends on Halloween night. But shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday, their Honda Accord ran out of gas on the Beltway's Inner Loop. 

They were pulled over on the shoulder near Persimmon Tree Road in Montgomery County when a Jeep Compass veered off the roadway and slammed into the car.

Pettey was in the backseat. He died at the scene.

Four others who had been in the car with him were taken to local hospitals. One was released from Suburban Hospital on Monday. Another is still at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he had been in intensive care. His condition is improving. Two others, both Gonzaga students, left the hospital Saturday and went to school Monday.

One of the passengers posted the following message on Facebook Monday:

"Today was the saddest and happiest day of my life. Wrapping my mind around the incident on Friday night is not something I'm able to do yet. At some moments I feel fine, and at some moments it hits me, drills me rather. It's not something that I will ever get over in my entire life, knowing that a good friend passed away, two seats away from me. Dom was a great guy. I can't think of one time he wasn't bringing everyone's spirits up, whether it was through his goofy smile that he never took off his face, or his feathery mullet that he took so much care of. If I didn't have the Gonzaga community to wrap their arms around me, I don't know what I would do. The love of your family is beautiful, but the love that your Gonzaga brothers can give you is something else, something that your family is unable to offer. If I wanted to cry today, they cried with me. If I wanted to laugh today, they laughed with me. Dom was a truly influential person, and I will try my hardest to live my life like he did. I'm doing it all for you Dom from now on, it's all for you."

The driver of the Jeep has been identified as 24-year-old Margaret Christine Baisley of Rockville, Maryland.

Police say alcohol may have been a factor in the crash. Authorities said that during the crash investigation, Baisley showed signs of being impaired.

Maryland State Police said the investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.

Monday's prayer service for Pettey was held for students and staff only. Counselors were available for grieving students.

"You hate for any child to have to go through this or any family, but when it's very close to home, it's heart-wrenching," Abercrombie said.

Pettey will be laid to rest Saturday.

"Words aren't really adequate in these types of situations for people, but our presence is," Knestout said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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