Paddle-out remembers Mainland football players lost three years ago

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Brian Khoury, whose brother Dean was one of the four lost in a car accident three years ago, signals to the other surfers before heading out in the water Thursday, Aug. 7 in Longport. Brian Khoury, whose brother Dean was one of the four lost in a car accident three years ago, signals to the other surfers before heading out in the water Thursday, Aug. 7 in Longport. Wednesday, Aug. 20 will mark three years since a freak accident on the Garden State Parkway claimed the lives of four Mainland Mustang football players and changed the lives of every student and staff member at the school.

Casey Brenner, Edgar Bozzi, Nick Conner and Dean Khoury would have enjoyed the Thursday evening’s group paddle-out on the beach at 30th Avenue in Longport. They would have been happy to hang with their friends on the beach; talking and joking together before heading out past the breakers on their surfboards.

But the reality is the paddle-out is in memory of the four who, while no longer here, are certainly still in the memory of their friends and family.

Several hundred people made their way to the beach Thursday and from the youngest kids to some long past their surfing days, they were there to remember Casey, Edgar, Nick and Dean at a place they boys loved to be when they weren’t on the football field together.

The event was organized by Lynne Brenner and Denise Khoury Gallagher along with the Longport Beach Patrol. Blankets filled with rose petals were on the beach for everyone to take a handful to toss in the waves in the boys’ memory. Everyone scooped a handful as they headed to the water.

A bit past 6 p.m. when the beach regulars headed home, friends of the boys headed beyond the breakers. Many remained at the water’s edge to watch the surfers head out and come together as a group. Members of the Longport Beach Patrol rowed Brenner and Khoury Gallaher out to join the group.

Casey Brenner’s dad, John, stood at the water’s edge watching the surfers head out.

“It is so hard to believe it has been three years; it is still tough,” said Brenner, who also had to feel a measure of support to go with the grief. “No one forgot about the boys, no one. There are so many people here and I appreciate all of their support. It means a lot to my wife and my family.”

The surfers headed in, and rose petals churned in the water that lapped the beach and floated away with the tide.

Everyone there seemed to hang close, maybe a bit past when they planned, to hold onto that connection with their friends just a little longer. 

A surfboard remembering the lost Mustangs, Casey Brenner, Edgar Bozzi, Nick Conner and Dean Khoury is upright in the sand at the waters edge for the paddle out in their honor. A surfboard remembering the lost Mustangs, Casey Brenner, Edgar Bozzi, Nick Conner and Dean Khoury is upright in the sand at the waters edge for the paddle out in their honor.

The surfers make their way into the water at the paddle out in Longport in memory of their friends and football players. The surfers make their way into the water at the paddle out in Longport in memory of their friends and football players.

Lynn Brenner and Denise Khoury Gallagher join the surfers in the water for the paddle out in honor of their sons and Edgar Bozzi and Nick Conner. Lynn Brenner and Denise Khoury Gallagher join the surfers in the water for the paddle out in honor of their sons and Edgar Bozzi and Nick Conner.

Longport Beach Patrol member Ned Eisler gives Denise Khoury Gallagher a big hug before the paddle out on the 30th Avenue beach in Longport. Longport Beach Patrol member Ned Eisler gives Denise Khoury Gallagher a big hug before the paddle out on the 30th Avenue beach in Longport.

Hundreds gather on the 30th Avenue beach in Longport for the third annual paddle out in memory of Casey Brenner, Edgar Bozzi, Nick Connor and Dean Khoury. Hundreds gather on the 30th Avenue beach in Longport for the third annual paddle out in memory of Casey Brenner, Edgar Bozzi, Nick Connor and Dean Khoury.

The surfers get in position for the paddle out off the beach at 30th Avenue beach in Longport Thursday, Aug. 7. The surfers get in position for the paddle out off the beach at 30th Avenue beach in Longport Thursday, Aug. 7.

John Brenner and his sister Allison Gustray of Linwood on the beach in Longport for the third annual paddle out in honor of John’s son Casey and his teammates. John Brenner and his sister Allison Gustray of Linwood on the beach in Longport for the third annual paddle out in honor of John’s son Casey and his teammates.

Friends and family at the paddle out in Longport pick up rose petals to toss in the water from blankets on the beach. Friends and family at the paddle out in Longport pick up rose petals to toss in the water from blankets on the beach.

An enlarged photo on a stand on the beach shows Casey Brenner and Dean Khoury having a good day at the beach when their families vacationed together when the boys were younger. An enlarged photo on a stand on the beach shows Casey Brenner and Dean Khoury having a good day at the beach when their families vacationed together when the boys were younger.

The surfers make their way into the water at the paddle out in Longport in memory of their friends and football players. The surfers make their way into the water at the paddle out in Longport in memory of their friends and football players.

Friends and family at the paddle out in Longport pick up rose petals to toss in the water from blankets on the beach. Friends and family at the paddle out in Longport pick up rose petals to toss in the water from blankets on the beach.


 

Related: 

Classmates recall fondly their friends now lost

Boys fondly recalled by those who knew them


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