Family, friends send lanterns into the night sky to honor 3 men killed in West Warwick crash

West Bay

WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of people took the football field at Exeter-West Greenwich High School on Friday night to honor the lives of three young men killed in a fiery crash last week.

Alex Banner, 21, of Exeter, along with Brandon Verrocchio, 23, and Gianni Guerrieri, 22, both of West Greenwich, were traveling in a car on I-95 South in West Warwick when Verrocchio, who was behind the wheel, lost control and veered off the roadway.

The car then slammed into a tree and burst into flames. All three men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends, family and community members gathered on the football field with lanterns in tow, lighting them and sending them into the night sky in honor of the three victims.

“Probably three of the most selfless people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said Valarie Pucino, a friend of the victims. “Everyone has had a close relationship with them. Everybody knows each other, everybody knows everything about everyone … so it’s more like, we’re all here supporting each other because everyone’s feelings are valid and everybody had some sort of relationship with them.”

Erin Shaw, another close friend of the victims’, said she still can’t believe they’re gone.

“I still wake up sometimes and, I don’t know, I feel like they’re still here. It’s hard to grasp that they’re gone,” Shaw said. “I find slight comfort out of how many people came together to just say positive things about them, because it is very true. They were such positive people and did what they could to help whoever they could.”

The victims’ families were also in attendance Friday.

“There are a lot of people. There’s three people, multiple families involved … multiple schools involved,” said Brian Banner, Alex’s dad. “I’m proud to say he’s well represented.”

Banner brought along a photo of his son and said he was touched by the turnout and the outpouring of love from the community.

“I went to mass [Friday morning] and the priest said he has a Hollywood smile,” he said. “We love it, we love to see it. He would light up a room no doubt.”

The victims’ loved ones said the three men were the best of friends, and if there’s a lesson to learn from this tragedy, it’s to tell your loved ones how you feel.

“Life is so short and unpredictable and you just need to make sure that the people that you love know that you love them,” said Pucino.

“I hope that they just know somehow that we all love them,” said another friend, Emma Schroder. “We’re all here for them. They impacted us so much. That’s all I hope.”

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