Published online: Friday, June 6, 2014 Print: Saturday, June 7, 2014
BREMERTON — David Dudley Jr. and Alena Pepi had been dating for two years and were inseparable, even in the car wreck that killed them.
The young couple met while attending Bremerton High, and wherever one went, the other was close behind, Dudley’s family said.
On Sunday morning, David, 19, and Alena, 18, died together in a car wreck on a Forest Service Road 18 miles northwest of Shelton in the Olympic National Park. They were two of five friends riding in the back of a pickup that ran off the road and struck a tree head-on around 7:30 a.m.
Everyone riding in the bed was thrown out in different directions, except David and Alena. They were found next to one another, holding on to each other until the end, which is one of the few sources of comfort, Dudley’s family said.
The driver of the vehicle was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he remained as of Thursday. The other occupants did not immediately receive medical treatment.
David’s friends were going camping for the weekend — David’s birthday weekend. But because David had to work he and Alena met up with the group at the campground the night before the wreck, said David’s mother, Patricia Barlow.
The morning of the crash, the friends all woke up early to go search for a place to watch the sunrise, Barlow said.
David loved camping, music and children. He started his own vinyl record collection in elementary school.
He often played with his young cousins, said his father, David Dudley Sr. A week before the wreck, David helped paint his 2-year-old cousin’s fingernails.
“He was going to be a great dad,” David’s father said.
Thoughts like that — and letting go of all the hopes and dreams they had for David — are what makes it hardest for his family.
David, the second of four children, had been a role model for his younger brothers. His brother Ian, 17, called David his best friend and idol.
David bought his first car earlier this year to build credit so he could eventually buy a house, Barlow said. He finished high school six months early with the help of a work-study program. After that, he started working as an apprentice in a mechanic shop at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
But he celebrated graduation alongside his classmates and Alena last May.
David, a 6-foot-3-inch former high school football player, often found himself working in small crawl spaces at the shipyard, and it was because he could be counted on to fix a problem, his family said.
At a young age, David was interested in tools, how things work and taking mechanical items apart. After his second birthday, his mother found him asleep on the couch with his new toy chain-saw running, his finger still on the trigger.
As he grew up, she would give him old hair dryers and other small machines to tinker with.
After meeting Alena, David’s main hobby became spending time with her, said his family.
They started dating shortly after meeting. “Almost instantly,” Ian said.
David’s home, where he lived with his mother, stepfather and siblings in East Bremerton, became Alena’s second home.
At the time of the wreck, Alena was taking classes at Olympic College.
“She was so creative and a great artist,” Barlow said. “Such a sweet girl.”
Alena’s family declined an interview, asking for privacy.
An online fundraiser to help cover Alena’s funeral expenses has raised more than $2,000.
A memorial service for David, which will also honor Alena, is scheduled for 11 a.m. June 14 at Summit Avenue Presbyterian Church in Bremerton.