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Kenneth Barki’s family became increasingly concerned in the overnight hours Thursday that the 23-year-old recent college graduate had not yet returned from an outing with two work buddies. So when morning came and his mother was getting ready for work, the news of a horrific triple fatal crash in Bozrah shot through her.
“I had to find out,” Carolyn Barki of Taftville said Thursday afternoon.
Barki and her sister, Pat Beatty of Norwich, drove to the crash scene on Route 82 in Bozrah at about 6:30 a.m. Barki approached a trooper at the police barricades and said, “I need you to tell me if that’s my son,” she recalled, still in shock at the answer.
Barki said she doesn’t remember what she said or did after the trooper confirmed her worst fear. Beatty drove her sister back home.
Kenneth Barki, 23, of 12 Prentice St. left the house about 9 p.m. Wednesday to meet up with two friends, Jesse Robinson, 22, of 3 Jerome Road, Uncasville, and Terence Garland, 19, of 11 Russell Road, Norwich. The three worked together at the Lisbon Wal-Mart and had planned to go to Mohegan Sun casino, the family said.
Police said the three were killed when the car they were in veered off the road, split in half after striking a tree and careered into the woods. All three died at the scene.
The accident scene
It was a little after 1 a.m. Thursday when Keith LaFaille heard tires screeching as a car roared down Route 82, then a loud bang.
He told his wife to call 911 and went outside to see if he could help.
But as LaFaille approached the accident scene, almost directly across from his house, he saw only pieces of a vehicle strewn about the roadway. As he approached the Mitsubishi 3000GT, he first saw the rear of the car closest to the road, completely severed from the rest of the vehicle.
“I called out to see if anyone needed help, and there was no answer,” he said. “I then saw a young man dead in the rear passenger seat with his seat belt still on.”
LaFaille said he looked into the woods and saw the front half of the car wrapped around the tree. He said the bark of the tree had been stripped. He saw a second young man on the floor of the wreckage with obvious leg injuries and a serious head wound. That man was also dead, he said.
In the woods, LaFaille said, he could see the entire floor and front seats that had been thrown about 25 feet from the other wreckage.
“I thought to myself, because someone was in the back seat, there might be a third person,” LaFaille said.
His fears were confirmed when he saw a third male victim showing no signs of life partially submerged in a small pond. He said the man was thrown about 30 feet from the nearest part of the car.
Police said Barki was seated in the back seat on the passenger side. They could not say where Robinson and Garland had been sitting. The car was registered to a person who lives in Robinson’s home.
A woman who came to the door at Robinson’s home Thursday afternoon said she was in mourning and declined to talk.
No one answered the door at Garland’s home.
‘He was a spark’
Distraught Barki family members and close friends gathered throughout the day to share their pain, disbelief and memories of Kenneth. His sister, Olivia Barki, 19, couldn’t speak about the loss of her only sibling.
“He was one of my best cousins,” 9-year-old Hailey Scott of New London said. “He would always joke around with me.”
His father, Michael Barki, said the family was proud of their son’s accomplishments. He worked full-time while also attending college full-time — first at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and then at Eastern Connecticut State University — and maintained a strong relationship with his girlfriend, Krystal Jones, 23, of Norwich.
“He was a spark,” said his grandmother, Nancy Enos of Uncasville. “He left a hole. We’ll all miss him forever.”
Kenneth always wore the gold crucifix that had belonged to his grandfather, David Enos, who died when Kenneth was 5.
Kenneth, a 2009 alumnus of Norwich Free Academy, graduated this spring from Eastern Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in English. He had just started sending out job applications to local school districts, family members said.
“He just wanted to help anybody any way he could,” Jones said. “That’s why he wanted to teach high school. He felt he could make the most impact on high school kids.”
Family members and friends could always tell when Barki was arriving, announced by his loud 1995 Dodge Stealth. He loved Michael Jackson, played trumpet in the NFA band and taught himself to play piano. He also wrote poetry.
During Barki’s graduation party on June 14, family members wanted to show off a stunning self-portrait the self-taught artist had sketched at ECSU in April. Barki was embarrassed and didn’t want people to see the work, still in the sketch pad. Some were viewing it for the first time Thursday.
The family plans to frame the piece for all family, friends and visitors to see.