Clayton teen killed in crash

Tire tracks and debris are left in the front yard of a home on Deferno Road after a pickup truck crashed into a tree early Saturday morning in Clayton. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

CLAYTON — Jeffrey L. Cupernall was asleep in his country home Saturday morning when he heard a bang at the door at around 2:30 a.m., leading him to get up and see a mangled truck’s headlights beaming through his living room window.

“I came to the door and there was an 18-year-old kid standing there,” he said, “shivering.”

State police, the Clayton Fire Department and EMS personnel responded to 37010 Deferno Road at around 2:38 a.m. to the scene of a fatal crash. According to state police, Dakota L. Yandow, 19, was driving a pickup truck when he allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign, continued on to Deferno Road and then lost control. The driver’s side of the truck then crashed into a tree in Mr. Cupernall’s front yard. Mr. Yandow was pronounced dead at the scene, while his passenger, Gavin N. Robinson, 18, was taken to River Hospital, Alexandria Bay, where he was treated and released.

Just outside the village is Deferno Road, which bends and winds through farmland and hunting woods in Clayton. His kids are grown up, so Mr. Cupernall now lives alone in his home on the road.

On Saturday morning, he was home and had hardly gotten any sleep. All the first responders had left and the road was back to being calm and snowy. It would likely be surprising to hear a crush of police cars, fire trucks and EMS had just swarmed his front yard, but it was evident in his face.

He said he was asleep in his bedroom Saturday morning when a passenger in the crash came to his door and woke him up.

“At first I thought, who is coming to my door at 2:30 in the morning?” he said. “This is such a quiet area.”

Mr. Cupernall told state police he opened his door and saw the passenger standing there, asking for help.

“He kept saying, ‘You’ve got to help. We rolled our truck. He’s bleeding out,’” Mr. Cupernall said.

Mr. Cupernall looked at his window, saw the headlights facing his house and then grabbed a flashlight. He ran outside and went to the passenger’s side and shined his flashlight into the cab.

“I went out there. He (Mr. Robinson) was on the other side. I grabbed my flashlight, looked inside and said ‘You don’t want to look in here.’”

Mr. Cupernall said he wanted to help, but at that point he knew that Mr. Yandow was not alive. His priority was trying to take care of Mr. Robinson, who was cold and just part of a fatal crash with his friend. Mr. Cupernall said he decided he would take Mr. Robinson inside his house to get warm.

“I then took the conscious male back into my house because I felt he did not need to see his friend in this condition,” Mr. Cupernall said in a written statement to state police, which he reiterated to the Times. “The male was also cold.”

First responders then arrived on scene shortly afterward. Mr. Cupernall described it as a carnival of police, EMS and fire truck lights. He said the truck that was in the crash stayed put for hours as police recreated the crash. He gave his statement to police at around 3:45 a.m. and then attempted to get some sleep in his living room chair.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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