By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/6/11
The Philly lacrosse world is mourning the loss of former Hatboro-Horsham standout Edward “Eddie” Coombs and his high school teammate, Robert W. Nagel, who were killed today in an early morning double fatality on Witmer Road in Horsham Township.
Police said that Coombs, 19, of Horsham, and Nagel, 19, of Ambler, were killed after the car they were driving in traveled off the roadway and struck a curb before careening 405 feet into the back yard of a residence near Norristown Road. Three other teens escaped the one-vehicle crash with minor injuries. The accident occurred at about 1:15 a.m., police said,
Police also said the other occupants, Tim Kurpiel, 19 of Horsham, also a teammate of Coombs and Nagel; Connor James McNicholas, 19, of Ambler, and Darryl Neville, Jr., 18, of Darby, were transported to the Abington Memorial Hospital and later released.
A preliminary investigation by Horsham Township and the Montgomery County Detective Bureau determined that McNicholas was driving the 2007 Honda Civic westbound on Witmer Road when he lost control, causing the vehicle to cross over Wade Avenue and enter the property at 600 Wade Avenue. McNicholas’ car continued to travel through the yard and stuck several trees before coming to rest, police said.
Mr. Coombs was to begin his sophomore year this fall at Marist College (N.Y.) where he plays lacrosse. He, Nagel and Kurpiel were key members of a Hatboro-Horsham team that shared the league title and advanced to the state tournament in 2010. (See story on Robert Nagel, whose success was due to hard work and determination.)
Dave Sowers, the former head coach at Hatboro-Horsham and Mr. Coombs’ coach all four seasons, said he was “one of the greatest kids I ever coached in all my years.”
“I loved Eddie like he was one of my (three) sons,” said Sowers, who coached at HH for nine years. “Eddie was that way. He comes from one of the greatest families ever.
“That’s what makes this so hard.”
Sowers saw Mr. Coombs several weeks ago at his “Be Your Best” youth lacrosse camp. Mr. Coombs, who came up as a youth player in the camp for many years himself, would give up his lunch hour at his full-time summer job to volunteer at the camp.
“He was just at our lacrosse camp two weeks ago, giving back to the kids,” Sowers said. “He would walk on the fields and all the kids knew who he was. They’d say, ‘Eddie is here’ and swarm around him.
“This is just a tremendous loss for all of. He had everything going for him.”
Mr. Coombs, also a star football player in high school, was a First Team Suburban One Continental Conference midfielder in 2010 and led the Hatters (18-6) to a share of the league title with Central Bucks East as well as the school’s first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association berth. He enjoyed a standout season as a freshman at Marist, playing in 14 games while collecting 25 groundballs, 16 caused turnovers and one goal.
Scott Nelson, who coached Marist in 2011 and now is head coach at Binghamton, told Inside Lacrosse in an interview that Mr. Coombs was “the kind of kid you get into coaching for. He had the best smile. He was always smiling, just a great kid and a lot of fun.”
Nelson added that Mr. Coombs was the most popular freshman on the team and that Coombs quickly proved he deserved playing time.
“My three sons are devastated,” Sowers said. “I saw the loss in their faces. Eddie was literally a big brother to them.
“This kid would come watch my sons play football and lacrosse and take time to go to their youth games on a Saturday morning when any other college kid would be sleeping in. He was just a remarkable kid.”
Mr. Coombs was a contributor to the Hatboro-Horsham as a freshman and started his final three seasons.
Mr. Coombs also was an Honor Roll student at Hatboro-Horsham who participated in the CSI law program in Washington D.C. with the National Youth Leadership program. Mr. Coombs also played club lacrosse for Rebel Elite.
“He was a phenomenal student,” Sowers said. “Duke (basketball coach) Dave Krzyzewski says that as a head coach you need to find your (team’s) heartbeat; that person that makes the team go.
“Eddie was the heartbeat of the Hatboro-Horsham program for his years.”
“I watched him play for Marist this year when they came to Delaware. He didn’t look anything like a freshman; he looked like a senior out there.
“Eddie had so much confidence. He had confidence in anything he did in life.”
The police report noted that that one of the occupants said that the car’s speedometer read 99 MPH seconds before the crash. Police also said that that all of the males had just left a party where they were drinking beer and/or mixed drinks.
Autopsies were being conducted at this time and the investigation will is continuing. The full police report can be found here.
Funeral arrangements have not been made available yet.
This story will be updated as more information is made available.