Eric Dziadul, Jason Hickton and few others went to Stafford to get tattoos Tuesday night.

They'd been considering it for a while. Dziadul, 19, of Ellington didn't have one. He'd had a design in mind, but his parents wouldn't let him get one. Then, the morning of Sunday, April 10th the design that he had planned out over the years to have inked into his arm dramatically changed.

That morning on his way home from a bonfire just after 2 a.m., his friend Robbie Dunn, 20, passed the green Audi that Dziadul was riding in with three others, Dziadul said.

"As he's coming around the bend he made a wide turn and the truck just sling-shotted into a tree… when he hit the tree the truck did a 180 and his bed hit trees about 6 feet away, and it instantly lit on fire," Dziadul said.

Robert "Robbie" J. Dunn, 20, was killed. A graveside service was held Friday morning in Manchester.

Two passengers in Dunn's truck, Kassandra King, 17, of East Windsor, and James F. McDermott, 22, of Coventry, were critically injured. McDermott has since been released from Hartford Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman. King is no longer listed in the hospital's directory, but the hospital spokeswoman could not say Friday whether King has been discharged.

"We've talked about the things that you'd never expect to happen, they happen so fast and so quick to people you'd never expect," said Justin Newton, 18, who was a passenger in the Audi with Dziadul.


"He was a good kid, never did anything to anybody, loved country music, hanging out with friends a lot, was a hard worker… just a good friend. He didn't really deserve this to happen to him," Newton said Thursday morning.

Newton met Dunn about three years ago when he was a freshman at Ellington High and Dunn was a senior. Newton, now a senior, said Dunn was "funny, tried really hard, never really screwed anybody over, never gave anybody problems."

"If someone else was having a bad day he'd put everything else aside and go and try to cheer that person up. He'd just do everything to make people happy," Dziadul added.

They said McDermott and Dunn were like "two peas in a pod" with their similar personalities and senses of humor.

Described as a country boy, Dunn liked to ride quads in the woods, liked to hunt ("deer, geese, ducks, mostly deer") and target shoot. He worked on his uncle's farm doing hay and corn and feeding animals. On a typical day, after Dunn had finished up at his day job at Ultra Cast Manufacturing Company of Enfield, he did his farm chores and then went over to Dziadul's house and hang out in the red barn in the rear.

Dunn loved his family. He was a new uncle; his sister had a baby boy recently, whom he always played with, Dziadul said.

"He was a really good kid, had a big heart, always got along, no matter if you were country, ghetto… just got along with everyone," Dziadul recalled while sitting in the Dziadul family's kitchen.

Tim Dziadul, Eric's father, said, he often thought of Dunn like a son. Eric and Robbie had grown up together, he said.

"He was inside my house almost every day, every weekend. Slept over so many nights. The story took a little while to sink in," Tim Dziadul said.


According to Eric Dziadul and Newton, April 9th was a typical day. Their friends had pretty much either worked or hung out somewhere. Later that night, a group of 15 to 20 of them got together in a sheltered area on the Ellington Airport property and had a bonfire. They were there for a two to three hours, hanging out, having a few beers, relaxing, the two men said.

It got late and a little past 2 a.m. on April 10th people started to leave to head home. Dziadul and Newton were in the backseat of the first car, a green Audi, two other friends were in the front. Dunn was following in his 1989 Ford Ranger truck, a third vehicle, a Ford F150 truck, was behind Dunn. The three were traveling south on Somers Road (Route 83), according to the men and police.

When they got to the turn at Kibbe Road, Dunn passed the Audi, the men said.

"We saw him hit the guard rail and it shot his truck to the right to the woods. The driver side door hit the tree and turned around. We screamed at the driver to stop, he hit the breaks and we hopped out and went for it," Newton said, adding that the two other people in the car left the scene and did not return.

"I saw the fire, the flame on the ground and went up into the engine. I don't know why, and it went quick to the dashboard," Dziadul said.

Dziadul and Newton opened the driver's side door and saw the dashboard was bent and the steering wheel was pinning Dunn's knees to the seat. They removed Dunn from the vehicle and then went to get King, they said. At about that time fire had made its way through the dashboard into the truck's cab, they said.

As they were getting Dunn out of the truck, the Ford F150 truck stopped, two people in the truck saw what was happening and left, they said. Someone in that vehicle later came back, Newton said.

They said they knew that Dunn had died. Dziadul stayed with King, who was barely conscious, while Newton went back to the truck to remove McDermott, they said.

By then Trooper Joseph Strogoff, who was on routine patrol out of Troop C in Tolland, came upon the crash. He was trying to remove McDermott from the narrow back seats when Newton got back to the truck, Dziadul and Newton said.

Moments after all three had been removed the truck was engulfed in flames.

"Right when I saw it happen I'm pretty sure my adrenaline kicked in and started freaking out… I'm just glad we got the two out alive," Newton said Thursday.

"Rather risk my life to save my friend's life. I'm not just gonna let them sit there and burn. They were obviously knocked out, so... I did what I could before it went off," Dziadul said Wednesday before his voice trailed off.

A few moments later, with all three out of the truck and more emergency personnel now at the scene, Newton and Dziadul said they broke down.

"We were crying in the road," Newton said.

The two said they have a strong network of family and friends who are supporting them right now and that they're doing OK.

"This is one of the worst things that I've ever had to experience," Newton said.


Dziadul and Newton were kept at the scene and gave statements to police, they said. Dziadul later questioned why so many of the emergency personnel were there, but seemed to be standing around. He and his father also asked why it took so long, in their opinions, for the families to be notified of the accident; Tim Dziadul said he inadvertently broke the news to the Dunn family with an uncle called him asking if he know the whereabouts of the young men.

Although it could appear to a distraught person that at times emergency personnel were "standing around," on Thursday, Lt. J. Paul Vance said nothing could be further from the truth.

"There are certain things we have to do, similar to fire (personnel). There are certain experts we need to bring out to a scene, equipment to further the investigation, we have to move meticulously and slow. I think the simple answer is we have several troopers come to a scene like that for many different reasons and who many different areas of responsibility," Vance, the state police information officer, said.

Vance said the state police did, and do, notify families expeditiously, but they must be 100 percent confident that they have the correct identity of the injured and deceased before notifying the next of kin. Vance said at the April 1oth motor vehicle accident if Dziadul and Newton told police the identities of Dunn, King and McDermott it is certainly usable and helped make a tentative identification, but that they need additional unspecified sources of confirmation prior to contacting the families.


Dziadul and Newton said the vehicles were not racing; they were just going home after a night out. As to whether people were drunk, the two could not say.

Vance said the investigating trooper will consider a variety of angles, possibly including the determination of the source or sources of alcohol at the bonfire and whether there were other motor vehicles involved.

"It could be several weeks before we have answers and determined what occurred, how and way," Vance said. "Hopefully, this is a wake up call for people."

Without knowing, Newton and Dziadul echoed what Vance said.

"It's a wake up call for everybody around Ellington not to drink and drive," Newton said.

Monday night, nearly 150 people attended a roadside memorial services at the point where Dunn died.

Tuesday night Dziadul, Hickton and others went to get their tattoos etched. Wednesday afternoon they went back for the final work.

Wednesday evening, standing in the garage area of the red barn behind his house, Dziadul showed his new tattoo.

A cross stretches from nearly his wrist to his elbow on his right forearm with a Celtic design around its edges. Inside a flock of geese fly off into the sky over mountains and a stream, the geese symbolize Dunn's presence from above and the stream is so he can run free, Dziadul said. Above the cross is written "Never Forgotten," below it reads "Robbie Dunn."

It's on his forearm so he can see it whenever he wants and as a reminder. "To take things more seriously," Dziadul said.

And think before you have a drink and drive, he said.