Communities mourn teens killed in crash; 2 others hurt

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Two local communities buried two popular teens last week after they died in a one-car crash in Pine Plains in which two other teens were injured, one critically.

All four boys were students at Stissing Mountain High School, and three of them were members of the football team.

Killed in the crash were Zachary Pruner, 16, of Stanfordville and Gian Paolo Stagnaro, 17, of Pine Plains.

The driver of the car, Dustin Hale, 16, of Pine Plains, was transported to Albany Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, and is still hospitalized. Another passenger, Niall Johnson, 16, also of Pine Plains, was taken to St. Francis Hospital with non-life threatening injuries and then released.

Funeral services for Gian Stagnaro, who was a popular summer camp counselor and student actor and would have been a senior at the high school, were held in Pine Plains Sept. 2.

Funeral services for Zach Pruner, who would have been a junior and about to play his first football game of the season, were held in Pine Plains a day later, on Sept. 3.

According to media reports, Zach became a national hero at the age of 12, when he aided police dealing with a hostage situation at Stissing Mountain High School in 2009.

His obituary said, “Zach was an upstanding citizen, dear friend, loyal and loving family member. In his sixteen brief years, he lived more fully than most people ever do: he traveled, he loved, and he put himself on the line to save others.”

Gian Stagnaro’s obit said, “He was an amazing young man. He had such a way with little kids, whether it was entertaining them with his funny voices, or teaching them how to show cows for FFA, or consoling them when they were hurt or scared.”

According to the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the accident took place around 3:45pm on Aug. 29 on Schultz Hill Road, one mile south of Route 199, when Hale apparently lost control of the car, which then hit some trees before overturning.

A news release from the sheriff’s office said the cause of the accident was still being investigated, but “at this time unsafe speed and reckless driving appear to be contributing factors.”

Preliminary investigation indicated that Hale was operating a 2000 Subaru Impreza northbound on Schultz Hill Road when he lost control and the vehicle left the roadway, struck multiple trees, and then rolled over, the sheriff’s report said.

In response to the tragedy, the Pine Plains school district opened the school early and offered grievance counselors for students last week when the school year officially began.

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