November 9, 2012

Pedestrian-safety effort follows tragedy


---- — PERU — Eye-popping green shirts help keep local students at an increasing number of local schools safer when they run along North Country roads.

Provided so far to Peru Central and Beekmantown Central by the Brandon Sorrell Memorial Scholarship Foundation, almost 190 shirts have been handed out to the kids by Brandon’s mother, Christol Mastic.

“We are reaching out to Saranac (Central)” next, she said.

She has made it a mission of her son’s foundation to teach pedestrian safety.

Brandon, 17, was one of four students who died on Nov. 15, 2011, when his car struck two pedestrians walking on Peasleeville Road in Peru.

Dat. T. Ong, 17, of Vietnam and Chu “Allen” Xiong, 18, of China were wearing dark, non-reflecting clothes as they walked with their backs to traffic as darkness fell that afternoon, police determined. The Seton Catholic Central international students died, as did Brandon’s girlfriend, Samantha Donah, 17, of Beekmantown, who was riding with him.

People aren’t very aware about pedestrian safety, Mastic learned in the months that followed the tragedy.

Her goal is to provide the shirts and pedestrian-safety information to as many schools as possible. They would also like to hand out reflective belts that students can wear to make themselves even more visible, if money can be raised for that purpose.

“Drivers can see (the reflection) up to 1,200 feet away,” Mastic said. “It’s like seeing the eyes of a deer or something.

“That’s the next thing we want to get, so next fall we can start with those and the shirt.”


Saturday’s Brandon Sorrell Memorial Foundation Scholarship Dinner will help fund the overall effort.

Brandon’s generosity of spirit lives on in that event — in the family and friends who volunteer to organize it, in those who have donated funds and prizes for the silent auction planned for that evening. 

”We’ve had wonderful donations,” said Krista Dick, a close friend of Christol’s who is on the dinner committee. “The community has come together (since the accident) and is still giving.”

The dinner, set for 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, includes spaghetti and ziti on the menu and a silent auction with many items, an iPod, season passes for Great Escape and limo service.

“One of the big items is a lottery tree with lots and lots tickets on it,” Dick said. “We are hoping we will have a wonderful turnout (at the dinner).”


She remembers vividly Brandon’s ever-present smile.

“Even if you weren’t smiling, he would make you,” she said.

Dick recalls the Brass Pro Fishing cap the Peru High School senior always wore — “that cap that I would have liked to have thrown in the garbage,” she said, laughing.

And she will never forget Brandon’s giving nature.

“He was the type of young man who loved to give,” she said. “Every year, his family adopted a family for Christmas. He did all the shopping himself, and he would somehow manage to deliver those gifts without them knowing who did it.”

“It was something we always tried to instill in him,” Mastic said via email, “that there was always someone worse off than we were.

“I guess it stuck — he was always bringing someone home for dinner.

“We had a houseful all the time,” she said, her voice lighting with laughter.

Brandon also volunteered every year at Dozer Day, a Kiwanis fundraiser for a number of organizations. And he and his mom baked goods for Christmas baskets that he delivered every year.

Last year, some of those cookies and other goodies were already ready when the accident ended Brandon’s life.

His mom and some school friends made the deliveries for him.

“He was such a nice young man,” Dick said. “Even though he’s not with us, he still puts a smile on my face.”

Grief is always there, Mastic said, but the pedestrian-safety project helps her and her family to cope.

“It’s the only thing keeping us going,” she said, “trying to make sure no one goes through this again.”

Email Suzanne Moore:



The Brandon Sorrell Memorial Scholarship Foundation Annual Benefit Dinner is set for 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Murphy's, 225 Route 22B in Peru. It includes a spaghetti and ziti dinner, auction, music. The meal is $10 for adults, $6 for ages 5 through 10 and is free for children younger than age 5.

Tickets for the silent auction are 10 for $10; purchasers place them beside the items they want to bid on, among them a gift-card wreath, bagels for a year, Santa's Workshop tickets and a Christmas tree filled with New York Lotto tickets.

Bring a nonperishable food item for the food shelf and be entered in a mystery drawing.

Learn more about the event, the fund and pedestrian safety at

On Thursday, Nov 15, the families of Samatha Donah and Brandon Sorrell will hold a candlelight remembrance for the young people who died in the accident. It will take place at 5 p.m. at The Smoked Pepper on City Hall Place in Plattsburgh. Friends, classmates and the community are welcome.


Here are some reminders posted on the Sorrell Foundation website:

▶ Obey all traffic signs and signals.

▶ Stop, and look left, right and left again before entering a roadway.

▶ Never run into the street; always cross at the crosswalk or corner.

▶ When crossing at an intersection, pedestrians should check for vehicles turning the corner.

▶ Always walk on the sidewalk. If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians should walk facing traffic.

▶ Make eye contact with drivers of stopped vehicles to be sure they are aware that you are crossing the street.

The majority of pedestrian deaths occur in dark or twilight conditions and at locations other than intersections, where vehicle speeds may be higher and where drivers do not expect to have to stop. Wearing brightly colored clothing or retro-reflective material when walking/running at dusk or at night makes pedestrians more visible.