Apr. 17—Friends for years, twins Tucker and Christian Schimelfenig and Michael Comerford died Saturday doing the right thing.
After a night out at the historic McGillin's Olde Ale House in Philadelphia, the three Clarks Summit area natives summoned an Uber ride home.
Uber driver Jean Santana picked them up and pulled onto the westbound Schuylkill Expressway, the notoriously dangerous highway in and out of the state's largest city.
It was about 1:44 a.m., when Santana's vehicle was struck from behind by another driven by Victor A. Spizzirri, who had swerved across lanes of highway, state police said. The Uber ricocheted and smashed into a bridge pillar.
Spizzirri's vehicle spun and rolled over several times before coming to rest on the right shoulder of the I-76 westbound exit to Route 1, Roosevelt Boulevard.
The Schimelfenigs, 23, Comerford, 24, and Santana, 31, were pronounced dead at the scene.
"They did the right thing. That's the worst part. They did the right thing," said Michael Greco, 22, another Abingtons transplant who lives in Philadelphia and knew them.
Police said Spizzirri, 31, did the wrong thing — he drove under the influence. He displayed signs of impairment and was arrested for homicide by vehicle while under the influence and related charges, police said.
Spizzirri survived and was treated at Temple University Hospital for moderate injuries, police said.
Mayfield native Paul Ruddy, 23, a senior at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia where Comerford graduated last year, knew all three in high school. Ruddy went to McGillin's, Philadelphia's oldest continuously operating tavern, after a fraternity alumni event and bumped into them. They chatted a while.
"It's really a shock to everyone right now, everybody," Ruddy said.
He knew Comerford best. A year behind Comerford at Scranton Prep, they played on the same football team for at least two years, according to team rosters. Comerford graduated from St. Joe's with a bachelor's degree in risk management and insurance. After his freshman year of college, he cooked burgers on the grill near the pool at the Country Club of Scranton, according to his LinkedIn profile. After his sophomore year, he led a crew that cleaned out and prepared rental properties for new tenants. In June, he took a job as an administrative recruiter for Aston Carter, a top staffing recruiting firm in Philadelphia.
"He was honestly just all around a great guy who's very down to earth, very relaxed," Ruddy said. "Someone that can always make you laugh. He's just somebody that you enjoyed being around. He had a very good energy about him."
Greco, 22, another former Scranton Prep football player who attends St. Joe's, said he met Comerford in first grade at Our Lady of Peace School in Clarks Green.
They stayed friends even after Greco transferred to Abington Heights Middle School.
"Just the nicest kid," Greco said. "You had to kind of get close to him for him to open up but he was just very humble and selfless and always acted in a manner that was very responsible and looked highly upon."
In middle school, Greco met the Schimelfenigs, who were a year ahead of him. They all played on school basketball teams. The Schimelfenigs were the kind of jocks you wanted to emulate, he said.
"They were just always very outgoing and cool, calm and collected dudes," Greco said. "No one ever had a bad thing to say about them and just from what I can tell, they really just led by example."
After graduating from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in May with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Tucker Schimelfenig began working for a mechanical engineering firm, according to his LinkedIn page. In March 2018, he was part of Abington Heights' state championship basketball team.
Head coach Ken Bianchi remembered the smile on Schimelfenig's face when he hung a title medal on his neck.
"He wasn't a starter but when he was on the floor the tempo of the game really increased," Bianchi said. "He liked to fly up and down and gave a spark to our team. He gave 100% effort at all times, whether in practice or during the game, diving for loose balls or denying his man the ball."
Christian Schimelfenig played junior varsity basketball, but started as a runner on the track and field team. He graduated from West Chester University in May with a bachelor's degree in finance and worked for a few months as an operations analyst for a suburban Philadelphia firm, according to his LinkedIn page. He spent the summer after his high school graduation researching cases and taking notes at trials for Scranton attorney Ernie Preate, whose daughter was friends with all three.
"He just kind of followed me around and watched what I was doing and he was very quick to pick things up," Preate said. "It's been a really tough weekend. ... They had so much promise, so much going for them."
Greco said he planned to go to McGillin's on Friday night, but stayed home because he felt tired. His friends died not far from their homes.
"It's just crazy," he said.
ROB TOMKAVAGE, staff writer, contributed to this report.
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