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Monday, April 12, 2010

Oakdale teen killed in Ronkonkoma crash

Life is so fragile and the following is one illustration that had a personal connection to Mike Lauterborn.... On Wednesday, April 7th, the writer attended the NY International Auto Show (see previous Blog Post). Among the many attendees Mike encountered were three teens, Natalka Fallon, 16, Eugene Franjoia, 17, and their friend Chris. The three were in a happy way and sitting in and photographing each other in a new Mercedes Benz truck. Mike strolled up, mentioned he was covering the show and not only took photos of them with his camera (see pic on this page) but with theirs as well. Eugene, in the white t-shirt and white cap, hanging out of the driver's side of the Benz truck, seemed particularly enthusiastic about the luxury ride. At the time, it was unknown to Lauterborn that he was already a luxury car driver and had a BMW back home in Long Island.... until today, that is, when the writer received a disturbing email from Natalka: "My name is Natalka Fallon, on April 7th at the Javits center you took some pictures of me and my friends in a car, I can't remember what car it was, but my friend in the white passed away yesterday and I'm trying to get a good amount of pictures for his mom, so if you could please e-mail me those photos I would really appreciate it."

Lauterborn was stunned to receive the news and, at first, did not recall the photo. But then sifting through the couple dozen photos he shot, he stumbled upon it and that day's interaction rushed back to him. Lauterborn shared the photo and received a link to the news story about Eugene's passing in return. Apparently, the young unlicensed driver of a Dodge pickup struck a Honda CRV and Eugene's BMW on the evening of Saturday, April 12th as the cars neared the intersection of Veterans Highway and Ocean Avenue in Ronkonkoma, NY. Eugene was killed outright. The following day, friends and family gathered at the scene (that's Natalka in the light blue writing on a message board) to establish a makeshift memorial and pay tribute. The mood was one of shock and disbelief about what had occurred and that a young life had been so suddenly taken. Certainly, Lauterborn was stunned, having had this brief moment with the lad and his friends.

R.I.P. Eugene.