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Accident claims two local youths

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN

LAPLACE – At 12:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, a rain-slick highway and a gust of wind caused two local youths to die as their truck crashed into a pine tree along Interstate 10 outside Tallahassee, Fla. Michael Curtis Jr., 19, of LaPlace, and Jonathan Juneau, 18, of Destrehan, both died instantly. Christopher Graves, of Middleton, Tenn., a friend of the two college roommates, was seriously injured. The friends were driving back to Hattiesburg, Miss. where they attended the University of Southern Mississippi. They had taken a spring break trip to visit Juneau’s older brother, Chris, who is working on a physical therapy degree at St. Augustine University in St. Augustine, Fla. The group took a day to visit Daytona Beach, Fla. and had started back late Monday night to return to school. Juneau had originally been driving his Pontiac Sunfire, said Jonathan’s father, Roger Juneau. “The car broke down and they couldn’t get it fixed,” he said. It was a little problem, the ignition would not start the car. Chris Juneau let his brother borrow his Chevy S10 so they could make it back to school in time. The three friends waited as long as they could to get the car fixed, said Roger Juneau. Finally they decided to go. Even though the weather was bad and Chris Juneau thought they should stay, the friends headed home. “It wasn’t a choice that you or I or anyone hasn’t made before without consequences,” Roger Juneau said. Juneau was sleeping when the accident happened, his father said. It was reported that a gust of wind caused the truck to fishtail. Curtis counter-steered, but lost control of the vehicle. The truck slammed into the pines lining the highway, killing the two instantly. “John suffered the same injury as Dale Earnhardt. His spinal cord severed at the brain stem and Michael’s neck was broken on impact,” said Roger Juneau. Graves suffered a broken arm and leg, torn intestines and other internal injuries. “He will survive,” said Roger Juneau thankfully. “There is no way to describe this. The coroner said it was a weather-related accident with tragic results,” said Roger Juneau. Though blood test results have not returned, authorities told the families that it did not look like alcohol was a factor in the accident. “That goes along with what Chris said. He wouldn’t have let them leave if they had been drinking,” said Roger Juneau. Juneau graduated from St. Charles Catholic School in LaPlace last year. He loved baseball and his St. Charles Parish team won the Dixie Pre-Major World Series in Euless, Texas in August 1999. “Jonny was also the captain of the St. Charles Mock Trial team,” which took third in state in his last year, said Roger Juneau. At graduation, he won the American Legion Award. Juneau was attending college to become a patent attorney, his interest in patents born from his father’s working with patents. He was doing well, studying political science and was virtually a straight-A student. “He was the most incredible person in the world. I’m proud to be his father,” said Roger Juneau. “As kids go they don’t get any better then that,” he added. Curtis worked summers and holiday breaks at his father’s company, Curtis Environmental Services in LaPlace. He graduated last year from Brother Martin High School in New Orleans. Along with running cross country, Curtis was on the swim team and active in Brother Martin’s ambassador program. At the University of Southern Mississippi he was studying computer science. “He was an avid diver, loved the water and diving and had decided to work toward marine biology in school,” said Curtis’s father Mike Curtis Sr. Curtis met Juneau at college and formed a strong friendship along with seven other students. “We met Jonny and their friends. They all came over a couple of times for the weekend. They were great kids and it’s one of the things that makes this easier knowing that he was the happiest he had been in his life,” said Curtis Sr. “We love him very much and we’re all going to miss him very much,” he added. Juneau was the son of Roger and Kim Juneau and Grace Juneau and Glenn Wilson. He was the brother of Chris and Patrick Juneau. He was also the grandson of DeAun Walsdorf, Patricia Mills, Stephen and Jeanette Goudreau, Lavonne and Gilbert Crum and the late David Walsdorf Jr., Ruth and Roy Juneau. He was the great-grandson of Betty Crum, great-nephew of Hilda Jurado and is survived by several aunts, uncles and cousins. Services are today at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, in Destrehan, at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Garden of Memories Cemetery. Curtis was the son of Mike and Ginger Curtis and the brother of Kristen and David Curtis. He was the grandson of Nelson and Gloria Curtis of Abita Springs, Connie Gitz of Birmingham, Ala., and the late David Rudd. Services were held Friday at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church, LaPlace. Interment followed in St. Vincent DePaul Cemetery in New Orleans.