BOYDS, Md. - People in Montgomery County are mourning the loss of a 16-year-old boy who was hit and killed by an Amtrak train.
Students at Clarksburg High School wore blue on Tuesday in honor of John DeReggi Jr. as an outpouring of love and loss for him spread across social media and in the hallways of his school.
“Everyone was sad today. It was different. The vibe, you just knew something was wrong as soon as you walked in, and everybody was down, quiet today,” said student Jasmine Hernandez.
“It’s always hard to lose a student. And when you lose a student to a tragedy, it’s doubly as hard. Kids aren’t supposed to leave us at 16 years old,” said Clarksburg High School principal Steve Whiting.
Police say they are still investigating the incident that happened just before 5 p.m. Monday near Boyds, Maryland. They are interviewing witnesses and the train operator.
A man, who did not want to be identified, said he saw DeReggi walking with two girls along the tracks as the Amtrak train approached and honked. The man says he called 911 right after the boy was hit.
Carl Hobbs owns Poolesville Small Engine Repairs, located just steps from the accident scene. He was working at the time.
“He was with his sister and his girlfriend, and he had some other friends as well, three other friends. And they were just out on the tracks taking these photographs,” said Hobbs. “And I’m not sure exactly what happened, but he just did not get out of the way of the train. I believe they did hear the train, but just did not have time for him to get out of the way.”
School officials are trying to support teenagers who are mourning a fun-loving 11th grader who embodied school spirit.
“He participated on the track team. He also worked out a little with the football team. He chose not to play this year, but again, he always was there for the spirit piece,” said Whiting.
Following this incident, police are asking parents to talk to their children about the dangers of hanging out on train tracks.
On Tuesday night, dozens of family and friends from around Montgomery County gathered at Difference Makers Church in Damascus to remember DeReggi.
They told stories that brought laughter and tears. They remembered the teenager as one of the most open and honest people they knew.
"He laughed, he cried," said pastor Clark Baisden. "He wore his emotions on his sleeve. When he was struggling with something, that was not shock to anybody because he was real."
Friends sat around a campfire talking and grieving together as the sun set.
But his pastor will remember him as a boy who lived life to the fullest.
"They weren't scared of anything," said Baisden. "They weren't scared of peer pressure. John, he flew right in the face of that."