Friends and family of crash victims hold vigil

July 30, 2013
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Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter
Two girls sit in front of two wooden crosses where Joseph Michael Bowland and Michael Dillon Gregg were killed in a car accident Saturday. Order a Print
Image description
Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter
Friends and family held a vigil for Joseph Michael Bowland, 20, of McDonald, and Michael Dillon Gregg, 22, of Bulger, who were killed in a car crash on Joffre Bulger Road Saturday. Order a Print

More than a hundred people gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the lives and mourn the loss of Joseph Michael Bowland and Michael Dillon Gregg. Wooden crosses, candles and flowers marked the otherwise unremarkable grassy patch along Joffre Bulger Road in Smith Township where Bowland, 20, of McDonald, and Gregg, 22, of Bulger, died when their vehicle crashed Saturday.

“They loved life and lived it to the fullest,” said Gage Godwin, a childhood friend of Gregg and Bowland. “They did everything 100 percent.”

Bowland and Gregg, who went by Dillon, died in the Weirton Medical Center in West Virginia after the vehicle they were both passengers in rolled over. Two other men, Jordan David Jacobsen and Ben Bowman, both 19, were also in the car and were taken to Pittsburgh hospitals by ambulance, where they recovered.

Friends and family dressed in white, lit candles and wrote messages and memories on balloons, which were later released into the sky.

Brian Huchko has many fond memories with Gregg, especially when Gregg first got his quad, a Kawasaki Bayou 220. He said they often went riding along the “Coal Washes” on Route 980 when they were kids. Once when they were racing, Gregg hit a knoll and was propelled into a ravine.

“All you saw was his feet go flying,” Huchko said. “We never laughed so hard in our lives.”

Roosevelt “Brauc” Archie said his best memories of Gregg are of the two practicing mixed martial arts in Gregg’s garage. They formed a team, the PA Brawlers, of which Archie said he is “carrying on the name for the boys.”

Archie said Gregg was “just an overall good-hearted person.”

“He put his all into everything he did, and Joe was also the same with basketball and his family and everything. He kept everybody close,” Archie said.

Marian Brackman, Bowland’s aunt, said her nephew was a sweetheart who was always friendly to everybody. She smiled while remembering him as a child.

“He always used to come and see my husband, and as soon as he walked in, my husband knew to take five dollars out and give it to him,” she said.

Karen Brackman, Bowland’s cousin, said he was an adventurous risk-taker, but also a family man.

“Joe was always positive, always had a smile on his face,” she said. “He loved his nieces. He was more of a dad to them than an uncle.”

Karen Brackman also knew Gregg well, and she said the friends’ motto was, “We ride together. We die together.”

Mike Gregg, father of Dillon Gregg, said he hopes something positive will come from the vigil, “if it saves just one life” by deterring others from driving at high speeds.

“Let’s make it so their lives mean something,” he said in a speech during the vigil. After reciting the Lord’s Prayer, everyone released their balloons. “Let them go straight to Heaven,” he said.

The families of Gregg and Bowland will hold a double viewing and funeral procession. Their families will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in Nation Funeral Home, 220 East Lincoln Ave., McDonald. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Calvary Center of McDonald Presbyterian Church on West Lincoln Avenue.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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