KINGSTON - As girls and boys in shimmering gowns and freshly pressed suits queued in the corner of the school gymnasium, their parents jostling for space along the red carpet, principal Richard J. Kelley spoke through the speaker system to say what everyone already knew.
Four members of Silver Lake Regional High School would be missing from their junior prom, one of the biggest events of the school year.
“It was a very difficult situation, deciding whether we should still have the prom tonight,’’ Kelley said. “But right now, we feel it’s good for us to be together.’’
A red BMW carrying three girls and one boy to the school Friday morning collided head-on with a school bus two blocks away from the school’s entrance, injuring the students and the bus driver.
The only student identified in the crash was Monica Knight, who was in fair condition late Friday night at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, according to Sarah Darcy, a spokeswoman for the hospital. Another student, the boy, was treated at South Shore Hospital and transferred to a second hospital, Darcy said. No information on the other victims’ conditions was available early Saturday morning.
The crash took place on Lake Street at about 7:15 a.m. Friday. The injured students were taken to the school’s football field, which was used as a landing pad for two helicopters to transport them to Boston hospitals. The bus driver, a woman, was also taken to an area hospital.
At the scene, the car appeared to have completely crossed over the double yellow line at a slight bend in the road before crashing into the front grill of the bus.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by Kingston police and a State Police crash analysis unit, Kingston Police Chief Joseph J. Rebello told reporters at the scene.
The accident brought sadness to the school, where some 1,200 students come from Kingston, Halifax, and Plympton. The fact that it happened the morning of the prom, some said, was especially heartbreaking. By midafternoon, school administrators said they had decided to proceed with the prom. Each year, the junior prom begins with a red carpet promenade at school with eager parents snapping photos, before the students are taken by bus to and from the dance at a Randolph banquet hall.
“If they’re going to try to get together, it’s better for them to be in a safe and controlled environment,’’ Kelley said. “Obviously, it’s not going to be the celebration they intended.’’
Before the start of classes Friday morning, Kelley heard some passing sirens but assumed they were headed to a nearby nursing home. It wasn’t until he began hearing helicopters that he realized it was something else.
Kelley said he spoke with the parents of the students involved in the accident - and broke the news to some of them. The injured students are from Halifax and Plympton.
“It’s the worst call a parent can get,’’ Kelley said. “It was hard for me to hear. So multiply that by a gazillion for these parents.’’
Jacob Critch, an 18-year-old senior from Halifax, said he heard the helicopters outside the school and knew right away something was wrong. Before the end of first period, he said, everyone knew what had happened.
“The girls were crying. The boys were crying,’’ Critch said. “It wasn’t a good day.’’
Shawn Hallett, 17, of Halifax, said classrooms and hallways were more quiet than usual - everyone whispered. Some teachers postponed quizzes, he said, and canceled the day’s lessons, saying they understood it was impossible for anyone to focus.
Superintendent John Tuffy said the school system activated its crisis intervention team Friday and allowed students to leave with their parents if they found it too difficult to remain in school. He said students were not being allowed to drive themselves home. About 300 students were signed out early by their parents Friday, Kelley said. Some had plans to get ready for the prom, though he believed the majority of the students were signed out by concerned parents.
“When stuff like this happens, you just want to hug your child,’’ Kelley said.
Emily Boerger, a 17-year-old senior from Kingston, said news of the accident left her feeling scared and confused.
“It was, like, real life,’’ she said. “They were living last night, and tonight, who knows?’’
The senior class officers decided Friday that any junior too upset by the morning’s events to attend the junior prom will be able to use the ticket to attend the senior prom on May 18.
Even with four of their classmates not in attendance, the junior prom was a time of smiles and gushing parents. Girls with fresh tans and manicures blushed as friends crooned, “You look so pretty!’’ Some of the boys wore sunglasses as they swaggered down the red carpet.