A Pinecrest High School senior is being remembered for his friendliness and his perpetual smile.
Dennis Dequan “Quan” Purcell, died in a vehicle crash in Hoke County, according to the state Highway Patrol. He was scheduled to graduate on Saturday morning.
His sister Vernita Purcell, a 2012 graduate of Pinecrest High School, suffered serious injuries in the crash. She was said to be in critical condition as of Thursday afternoon.
"Dennis' smile will forever be in my mind," Pinecrest principal Stefanie Phillips said Friday. "He was just a great kid who was always so positive. He loved his teachers and his friends, and he loved helping his father. He was always smiling."
Phillips said Purcell had completed all of the requirements for graduation. She said two of his cousins are to receive his diploma during the graduation ceremony Saturday morning.
She said Purcell and his family will be remembered during a moment of silence at the start of commencement exercises, and that his cap and gown along with some roses will be placed in his seat with the seniors on the football field.
Purcell was a reserve wide receiver on the football team and also saw action on special squads, according to head coach Chris Metzer. He told the players about Purcell’s death before exams on Wednesday morning.
"He really was a true servant leader," Metzger said, "always thinking of his teammates and others first. He was always smiling. He was an encourager. Everyone loved him. He was a brother to all."
Metzger said the players were all rattled by the news.
"He was a real team player," Metzger said. "Even though he did not play a lot, he worked hard to get better and to help his teammates get better, even the guys he competed against at his position. He mentored some of the younger guys."
Metzger said Purcell, who played on the team three years, "really exemplified the word unity, which was our theme this year."
"He truly will be missed," he said. "He was such a great kid, outgoing and loving."
Purcell attended Southern Middle School before enrolling at Pinecrest High. Catherine Murphy, director of communications for Moore County Schools, said extra counselors were made available to students and faculty members at both campuses on Wednesday.
A celebration of Purcell's life will be held Sunday in the Pinecrest Auditorium, with viewing at 1 p.m. and the funeral service at 2 p.m.
Sgt. James Stahl of the state Highway Patrol said Purcell was driving his sister’s motorcycle when he struck the front of a pickup truck on U.S. 401 near Raeford. The truck, which was traveling east on the highway, was turning at an intersection when the crash happened.
Stahl said two witnesses reported that the motorcycle “passed them from a high-rate of speed” before the wreck. He said it is possible that the driver of the truck failed to yield before turning at the intersection. Alcohol was not a factor, he said.
The incident was still under investigation as of Thursday afternoon, with troopers working to reconstruct the moments leading up to the crash.
“The main question we have right now is speed,” Stahl said, adding that his office plans to present a thorough report to prosecutors. “When we hand this to the district attorney’s office, they need to have all of the factors so they can make an educated decision about whether to pursue charges.”