LIBERTY TWP. — Lakota West High School student Zeke Stepaniak was remembered for being selfless Saturday night.
The high school junior died Saturday morning at University Hospital following injuries he sustained in a two-vehicle accident Friday night in the intersection of Hamilton-Mason and Ohio 747. About 150 to 200 friends and classmates sat hugging, crying and holding candles on a hillside on the northeast side of the accident site.
A cross and two cardboard signs were planted into the ground remembering what many called a selfless young man.
“He was always thinking about others before himself,” said sophomore Nathan Phu as his voice began to crack. “He was always happy.”
Phu was one of four passengers in the 2007 Chevy Cobalt Stepaniak was driving Friday night. The car was headed south on Ohio 747 at 10:56 p.m. Friday when it was struck by a 2001 Cadillac that was traveling north on Ohio 747 and was driven by James Moore of Liberty Twp. according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Stepaniak was attempting to turn left onto Hamilton-Mason Road when the accident occurred.
With tears streaming down his face, sophomore Rudi Danquah said, “He was the nicest kid ever.”
Danquah was a passenger in the back seat with Phu and sophomore Cameron Winters. All three were treated and released from the hospital. Stepaniak was transported by medical helicopter to University Hospital and front-seat passenger sophomore Ashley Stacy was transported by medical helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. According to a letter sent to Lakota parents from the school district Saturday, Stacy was listed in serious condition. Hospital officials could not be reached Saturday.
“I just want to be strong for everybody. I just really want to take her place. I just can’t sum it up on how I feel,” said Morgan Stacy, the older sister of Ashley Stacy.
Laura Gay is the mother of one of Stepaniak’s friends, Drew Gay.
“He’s one of the best young men you could meet,” she said of Stepaniak. “And all of his friends loved him dearly.”
Lakota West will have grief counselors on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the main campus. Teachers and principals will also be there to help students “get through this tragedy,” according to the letter to parents.
Counselors will also be available on Monday for students and staff at Lakota West and the freshman campus.
“Zeke was an outstanding young man,” said Principal Richard Hamilton. “He was a bright, caring member of the Lakota West community who will be missed.”
Zeke is the son of Isaac and Detra Stepaniak.
The accident remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office.
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