Wearing school apparel with heavy hearts, the Lockport High School community is remembering one of their own Monday, 18-year-old Michael J. Dmochowski, a student who was killed in a weekend car accident while on a trip visiting a college.
Dmochowski, a senior, was visiting Ithaca College on Friday and was heading home when the fatal crash occurred at about 9:30 p.m., said Principal Frank Movalli. The accident was on Route 96 in Tioga County.
Word about the crash spread quickly Saturday, and the school's performance of "Seussical the Musical" included a moment of silence and a dedication to Dmochowski. Student reaction on Twitter and Facebook included condolences and disbelief that Dmochowski was gone.
A message circulated on social media, asking seniors to wear class shirts or sweatshirts and students to wear athletic uniforms or apparel today in Dmochowski's memory. A Twitter hashtag, #RIPMike, was started as well.
News of Dmochowski's passing came as a shock to most and left many reeling.
"He was a real good kid who worked really hard," said Jason Wulf, a Lockport teacher and co-owner of Lake Effect Ice Cream, where Dmochowski worked part time. "We have a good staff that's very close, they're pretty upset."
Dmochowski was a member of the National Honor Society and the National Mathematics Honor Society. Movalli said Dmochowski would have received an Advanced Regents diploma with honors designation, meaning he scored at least a 90 percent on all Regents exams.
During the summer, Dmochowski was a water safety coordinator and swim instructor for the YMCA at the high school. He was an excellent student and an even better person, Movalli said.
Before he left at 5 a.m. Friday for Ithaca, Dmochowski had asked if a college visit would count as an absence from school, Movalli said. That would have ruined Dmochowski's four-year run of perfect attendance.
"I told him, no, it didn't," Movalli said.
Dmochowski excelled in the pool, as well the classroom. In recent weeks, he was named First Team All-Niagara Frontier League in the 400 freestyle relay, along with Lions teammates Cole Twomey, Ryan Smorol and Austin Hinton.
Dmochowski was also named to the All-NFL Third Team, along with Lions teammates Ian Smith, Magnus Cleveland and Ethan Tatro. He was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award and the Academic All American Award by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association, which is awarded to less than 2 percent of all high school swimmers.
Lockport School District Athletic Director Patrick M. Burke described the young man as, “hard working and well-liked.”
“He was as good in the classroom as he was in the pool,” Burke said. “He was one of those kids who work so hard, he swam his best in his last meet in his senior year, which is a testament to his work ethic. He was a hard worker — just not real flashy. He was just a real good young man.”
Movalli said grief counseling will be available at the school.
"We don't have control over why," Movalli said. "But we can focus and celebrate his accomplishments and remember him."
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. John the Baptist Church, 168 Chestnut St. Friends and family will be received from 2 until 4 p.m. and 7 until 9 p.m. Wednesday at Prudden and Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee St.