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Woman who died in Monday crash was 'smart, caring' Waterford High and Mitchell College grad

Waterford — The 24-year-old woman who was killed in a crash on Boston Post Road Monday was a soft-spoken and “smart, caring and loving” person, according to people who knew her as a student and aspiring teacher at Waterford High School and Mitchell College.

Stephanie Turowski was in the car with her mother, a Clark Lane Middle School teacher, and another woman when all three were injured in the crash.

Olivia Turowski, who teaches eighth-grade science at Clark Lane, was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital Monday. Police said Monday she was in critical condition, but by Tuesday a hospital spokesperson said she had improved and was in serious condition.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and the family in our thoughts and prayers,” Waterford schools Superintendent Thomas Giard said Tuesday morning.

After the crash, Stephanie Turowski was pronounced dead at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. The third woman in the vehicle with the Turowskis, Lauren Welp of Allston, Mass., is in stable condition at L+M. Jill Long, who works at Clark Lane with Olivia Turowski, said the three women were on their way to the mall for a shopping trip when the crash injured all three of them.

The driver of another car involved in the crash, Brianne Colanna, 27, of Bethel, is in stable condition at Yale New Haven Hospital. The driver of a third car, Arthur Spence, 27, of New London, was not taken to the hospital following the crash.

The three cars crashed on Boston Post Road just south of the intersection with Fog Plain Road at about 1:30 p.m. Monday. Waterford police did not release any additional information about the cause of the crash Tuesday, and said it’s still under investigation.

Stephanie Turowski graduated from Waterford High School in 2010, and went on to attend Mitchell College. After earning her diploma in 2015, she stayed at Mitchell as an intern through the Americorps VISTA program, whose members work with nonprofit organizations or public agencies to help them fight poverty.

Turowski continued to work closely with students after she graduated, and was loved by many at Mitchell, college communications director Colleen Gresh said Tuesday.

“She was full of life and spent most of her time trying to help others," said David Brailey, the chair of Mitchell College’s education department.

She majored in early childhood education and was planning to be a teacher, Brailey said. He said some of her ability working with kids came from having a teacher as a mother.

“She went home at night and probably used her mom as a sounding board, in terms of figuring things out,” he said.

But the rest just came naturally.

“I think it…has a lot do with her compassion and her love of young children,” Brailey said. “She was a natural. She had no problem getting down on the floor with the kids.”

Students at Mitchell who worked and learned with her will be devastated to hear of her death, Brailey said.

“She was someone who was an active contributor in class, and made students feel at ease,” he said. “She had a number of students who relied on her for support.”

Davonta Valentine, who was Turowski’s classmate and friend at Waterford High School, created an online fundraiser for the family after Monday’s crash.

“She was just caring, and very smart,” Valentine said Tuesday. “Every time you were around her, she was up and happy.”

By Tuesday evening, the online fundraiser had generated more than $4,700 in donations. More than 120 people had given money in denominations of $20 or $30 at a time on Monday and Tuesday, some leaving brief notes of condolence.

Marlene Wiggins coached Turowski in basketball and, at Waterford High School, as a player on the varsity field hockey team. Turowski was lighting fast, she said, but could be too gentle for the sometimes violent game.

“It was really hard to get her to be aggressive because she was so nice,” Wiggins said. “She was one of the nicest kids you could ever meet. I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone.”

Giard said counseling resources will be in place at Clark Lane when students return to school on Tuesday. Long, who visited Olivia Turowski in the hospital Tuesday with a group of Clark Lane teachers, said Turowski faces multiple surgeries, but is focused on being in touch with the communities that have rallied around the family over the past two days. Her husband, Steven Turowski, and son Alex had been fielding calls from friends and family members all day Tuesday, and Long said Olivia was eager to find her cell phone and call people herself.

"She wanted to know where her purse was and wanted to tell everyone she was okay," Long said.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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