ZEBULON — An East Wake High School senior who died after a weekend car wreck was remembered Wednesday as a hard-working Eagle Scout and a popular student leader with an infectious smile.
A funeral for Patrick Michael McLaughlin Jr., 17, was held at Zebulon Baptist Church. McLaughlin died Saturday in the single-car accident on U.S. 64 near Wendell.
Students at East Wake High are mourning the death of a classmate who was a friend to many and the kind of student teachers loved to teach, said principal Jamee Lynch. At the time of the wreck, McLaughlin was on his way home from work at Prestige Photography of Raleigh, she said.
"He was a great kid," said Lynch, the principal of the East Wake School of Integrated Technology, one of four programs on the campus.
Students were somber when they arrived at school Monday morning and created ways to remember their classmate, who was a UNC-Chapel Hill sports fan, Lynch said. They wore blue ribbons and made banners that will be given to McLaughlin's parents.
Lynch said 25 students received counseling services in the school office to help them cope with the loss. She said McLaughlin's teachers were also taking the news hard.
"They're grieving, too," she said.
McLaughlin was a student ambassador. His picture hangs in the school's front lobby. He was an editor for the school yearbook and attended numerous school events, gathering information for the yearbook and taking pictures, Lynch said.
McLaughlin also worked at the Zebulon Parks and Recreation Department, doing everything from running summer sports camps and working special events to installing computer software and trouble shooting.
"What we will miss most is just him being here and smiling and laughing with us," said Greg Johnson, the town's parks and recreation director. "He was a very fun person to be around. We are going to miss that smiling face greatly."
Johnson said that he heard about the wreck about an hour after it happened and that he and Debbie Wheless, who worked with McLaughlin at the department, went to his home to be with his family and friends.
Many of his fellow Scouts and Scout leaders also gathered at McLaughlin home, Johnson said. He said McLaughlin planned to build picnic tables for the recreation department as part of his Eagle Scout project.
According to the Highway Patrol, McLaughlin apparently overcorrected while trying to steer the car back onto the road.
Troopers investigating said neither speed nor alcohol caused the accident.
Lynch said educators always stress safe driving to young drivers.
"This can happen so quickly," she said.
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