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Forgiveness and letting go

Man in coma since ’96 accident dies; driver, family bonded

David Scannell in 1994 with nephews Matt and Joe Stieb.
David Scannell in 1994 with nephews Matt and Joe Stieb. (Scannell Family Photo)

WEYMOUTH — He had already been forgiven, but now it was time to let go.

As the wake for David Scannell ended Friday evening, the man who put him in a coma 19 years ago sat outside C.C. Shepherd Funeral Service in Weymouth and nervously waited to see the grieving family.

When it was time, Scannell’s mother, Barbara, met Daniel Danais in the parking lot and they embraced.

“I said, ‘You know David’s free, and now so are you. It’s over. You don’t have to think about it,’ ” Barbara Scannell, 88, said Saturday. “You spent 19 years thinking about it, regretting it.”

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Danais was in his early 20s and driving drunk when he struck Scannell, then 39, as Scannell bicycled through Quincy on June 25, 1996.

Scannell, an artist and street performer who was always on his bicycle, suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma until he died Aug. 17 at age 58, his family said. Danais pleaded guilty to several charges, including operating under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of personal injury, and was sentenced to jail time, court records show.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney said the office would reexamine the case and decide whether more charges are warranted in light of David Scannell’s death.

Danais, now 40, said he owed it to Barbara and David Scannell to attend the wake.

“I did an awful thing. I can’t take it back,” said Danais, who lives in Plymouth and works in construction. “It was the least I could do. It’s about Mrs. Scannell. . . . I love her for the fact that she forgave me and she’s a loving person.”

Though Danais changed David Scannell’s life forever in 1996, he did not come face to face with him until years later. Danais had gotten in trouble again for drunken driving in 2002 and had to return to court, according to court and driving records.

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Scannell’s brother, Chris, approached Danais at the courthouse and said it was time for him to meet his mother and brother.

The meeting took place at the family home in Weymouth, where Barbara Scannell was caring for her son.

“Daniel was overwhelmed with grief and remorse,” she said. “I had David here, I was taking care of him. . . . He was totally hopeless and his care was 24/7 and [Danais] came into the room to see David. He just all but fell apart.”

David Scannell at his brother’s wedding in 1984.
David Scannell at his brother’s wedding in 1984.(Scannell Family Photo)

After the meeting, Danais and Barbara Scannell said, they kept in touch. Danais spent about a decade doing community service at a head injury clinic in Plymouth as part of his probation and updated her about the patients there when they talked.

Danais now has an 18-year-old daughter entering college and he credits Barbara and her family for making him a better person. He said his bond with Barbara is “genuine.”

“It’s almost like a relationship you would have with your nana,” he said.

Jeffrey Scannell, one of Barbara’s eight children, said the meeting with Danais after the wake was an example of “God working small miracles in everyday life.”

“He’s been completely forgiven,” he said. “It’s a testament to the power of love and forgiveness.”

A funeral Mass was said Saturday morning for David Scannell in the Church of St. Francis Xavier, which is within walking distance from his family home.

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Tim Scannell, another brother, gave the eulogy.

“Davey’s talents seemed never ending,” he said. Tim Scannell then started to list David’s varied accomplishments: running a marathon without training for it, painting portraits, diving.

“Most of us follow the same rhythm to life: school, job, maybe marriage, family. But Davey had his own rhythm, one that constantly had him searching for adventures. His energy was endless.”

His mother said David was in tremendous shape when he was injured because of his active lifestyle and came close to death many times while he was in a coma. She said the family does not know what caused him to die after all these years.

“I’m his mother and he’s my kid and I don’t want him to die,” Barbara Scannell said. “You don’t want to lose him and at least you can hold his hand if he’s still alive. On the other hand, why?”

At the end of the Mass, the pine coffin carrying David Scannell was sprinkled with holy water and brought outside the church. One by one mourners walked by the casket, pausing for a moment to place their hand on top.

Many then walked to the family home down the street, where Danais had been welcomed so many years before.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com.