Two El Campo Teens Die in Truck Rollover Accident

El Campo High School’s Memorial Wall will have three new names upon it: three juniors who died in rollover accidents during the current school year.

– A single vehicle rollover Friday night near Garwood claimed the lives of two El Campo High School juniors and left the entire campus and community wondering when the deadly streak would end.

Craig Bryan Coufal and Mark “Rocky” Gaona, both 16, are the latest of three ECHS juniors to die as the result of an auto wreck since the start of the 2005-2006 school year. On Monday, grief counselors and members of the clergy were on the high school campus to offer what comfort they could to students. Members of the Junior Class were placing ribbons – red for Coufal and light blue for Gaona – on campus trees where some of the green ribbons from the Nov. 13 auto fatality of junior Kelly Dluhos could still be seen.

The class plans to make and sell bracelets with the three colors intertwined to help all three families, said senior Noe Gaona, a cousin of Mark. “We’re doing the best we can,” ECHS Counselor Robin Crowell said. “Hopefully it will get better.” The campus was unusually quiet Monday, she said, as students struggled to cope with yet another loss. “It’s like shock almost. No one can explain it. We’re trying to help them,” Crowell said. “There are a lot of questions.” The boys had reportedly been close friends.

“It was always the four of us,” Noe Gaona said. “Craig, Mark, me and Wesley (Cadriel). We were supposed to go with them.” But circumstances prevented Noe Gaona and Cadriel from making the trip. The two boys had been eastbound on FM 950 about 1.4 miles east of Garwood in Colorado County just before 11 p.m. Friday, when Coufal’s 1999 GMC pickup went into a side skid while trying to come out of a sharp left turn, according to investigating Department of Public Safety Trooper Thomas Janak’s report.

“They had been going from El Campo to visit the Coufal boy’s mother in Huntsville,” Janak told the Leader-News. “They never got back to straight out of the curve.” The truck, driven by Coufal, reportedly skidded into the ditch on the north side of the roadway, overturned and rolled several times before coming to rest on the passenger side. Neither Coufal nor Gaona were wearing a seat belt and both were ejected from the truck.