Students and staff at EHOVE Career Center grieved the loss of one of their own Tuesday.
In a school where teachers and students have close ties, school officials said the impact of losing a fellow student caused ripples of emotion.
"We don't have a lot of details," said Principal Greg Edinger. "We're in the early stages of the process."
Edinger said the Erie County Sheriff's office called Tuesday morning, informing him Dustin Bajerski, a junior in visual communication design, had been killed in a car crash.
"It's a tough situation, and we haven't thought very far ahead," he said. "We're just trying to work through the process of informing teachers and students."
Bajerski was killed Tuesday morning as his mother was driving him to school.
According to state patrol reports, a tractor-trailer heading west on Strecker Road hit a car driven by Bajerski's mother, Lynne M. Wiley, who was heading north on Kelley Road. Bajerski was pronounced dead at the scene.
"It's an unfortunate situation, and we're in the early stages of announcing the events," Edinger said. "We have three counselors available and ready to help individuals who need it."
Displaying a Kurt Cobain T-shirt on his MySpace page, Bajerski said "I am the way I am because that's the way God made me," and labeled himself as the person who likes to hang out with friends, play the drums, train for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and drive his 1973 Dodge Duster.
At EHOVE, where friends described Bajerski as a friendly guy and mixed-martial arts lover, students say the loss of a peer strikes deep, whether you know the student or not.
"Everyone at EHOVE is like family," said Larissa Kelley, 16. "If something happens to one person, it shakes everyone."
Kelley said rumors of the death of a student and a car accident began circulating during their first classes.
"We were all trying to figure out what was going on," she said. "We started asking the teachers, who tried to get us to quiet down, but they didn't know much of anything either."
When Edinger made the announcement, students sat in silence, letting the words sink in, Kelley said.
"Every day kids will be walking into that classroom and have to deal with the empty seat beside them," said Mitch Austin, 17. "It's terrible. No matter if you knew him or not, you'll remember he was lost."
Bajerski also attended Monroeville High School. School officials there said they did not inform students of Bajerski's death Tuesday, but will do so and provide grief counselors today.