Voc-Tech student dies in Dartmouth accident

DARTMOUTH — A 16-year-old junior at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School was killed in a two-car crash Thursday night in Dartmouth as he and his friend backed out of a driveway.

Police investigators are trying to determine what caused the accident which took the life of Alec J. Viera, Dartmouth Police Detective Lt. Robert Levinson said.

On Friday, at GNB Voc-Tech, students and staff were stunned by word of Viera’s death. He was enrolled in the school’s HVAC program.

“We had heard about it early this morning before school,” GNB Voc-Tech Superintendent-Director Michael Shea said. “We had our crisis team in house, meeting immediately, to set up a plan to help our students. We also addressed the students in Alec’s shop first thing this morning.”

Shea said he had spoken to Viera’s parents, who were grief-stricken and not ready to talk to media.

He described Viera as a good student who regularly attended class.

“His mom told me how much Alec loved the school,” Shea said. “He was just an ideal student. He was here every day. He had perfect attendance, no discipline problems. … We loved him being here in the school.

“It’s a very difficult time for many of these kids,” said Shea, who described the mood among some of the students as somber. “For many, it’s the first time they’ve lost a friend. It’s tough. The school will do as much as it can to help them.”

Shea added that grief counselors were made available Friday to students and may be provided Monday, as well.

The deadly crash occurred around 6 p.m. Thursday. The teens were backing out of the driveway at 341 High Hill Road when their 1999 Mercury Mountaineer was struck from behind by an oncoming 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a 23-year-old woman from Acushnet, police said.

The impact caused the teens to be ejected from their vehicle, which was spun around. They were not wearing seat belts. The woman’s car traveled a short distance before coming to a stop, police said.

Both teens suffered head injuries and lacerations. They were transported by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital, police said.

The woman was also taken to the hospital to be treated for an ankle injury, police said.

Viera was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s, according to police.

Police have not released the names of the other two people injured in the accident.

According to his obituary, Viera was taking college preparatory classes at Voc-Tech and was an avid Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox fan. He enjoyed playing video games, baseball, basketball and golf. He had just started at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Dartmouth as a cashier.

Viera had four sisters and was the son of Stephanie Torres of New Bedford and Douglas Y. Viera of Assonet. The family has established a memorial scholarship fund in Alec’s name.

Viera’s death occurred days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that teenage traffic deaths declined nearly 17 percent last year for youths ages 15 to 19.

The report said Massachusetts had the lowest teen traffic mortality rate — 4.9 per 100,000 people — but pointed out that motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers.

Before Thursday’s accident, Levinson said Viera and his 16-year-old friend had just visited their friend’s house in Dartmouth. The driver — who had just received his license — told police he was planning to drop Viera off at his house in New Bedford before heading home.

State law prohibits 16-year-old motorists from driving with any passengers — other than relatives or licensed drivers over age 21 — for the first six months after getting their licenses.

“That is an issue that we may look at later on but, right now, there is a bigger investigation to worry about,” Levinson said.

The area of High Hill Road where the crash occurred is a fairly long straight stretch with few curves. Dartmouth and state police investigators are conducting an accident reconstruction to determine what caused the collision.

“Was it a matter of speed being a factor or inattention? It’s too early to say right now,” Levinson said.

“That part of High Hill Road is a straightaway. It really wasn’t dark out yet, so it’s kind of odd. We don’t know why someone wouldn’t be able to get out of the way, or if maybe the car backed out too quickly.”

Levinson said the crash investigation will likely take several weeks to complete.