A Joyful Night Ended In Tragedy For 2 Teens The Prom Couple Were Careful. But A Drunken Driver Hit Them, Police Say. Both Were Killed.

Posted: April 24, 1995

FRANKLIN — Frank Borelli had rushed to emergency rooms before, and he didn't want to have to do it again.

So Borelli, the principal at Delsea Regional High School, took advantage of an assembly Friday morning to remind students not to drink that night - prom night.

Sitting in the group was Tania Mokienko, a 17-year-old senior from a close- knit Franklinville family. Her date for the prom was Joe Berry, 18, of Franklinville, who graduated from Delsea. They had been dating for about two months.

Tania, whose had a penchant for putting a red tint on her hair, was dressed that evening in a black halter dress. Joe arrived, dressed in a purple tuxedo for pictures. He had borrowed a racy 1993 red Pontiac Firebird, leaving behind ''The Grape," his purple Ford Ranger.

After a night of dancing, the pair spoke briefly with Borelli as they were leaving Auletto's Catering, in Almonesson, Gloucester County, where the prom was held.

"As they were leaving, I said, 'Just be careful,' " Borelli said.

Within two hours, the teenagers were fatally injured, struck by a man who police say was driving drunk.

The Firebird had sputtered to a stop about 10 miles from Auletto's, on Route 55 in Elk Township, its gas tank empty, relatives said. Still in their formal wear, Joe and Tania called for a ride. They retrieved Joe's vehicle, changed into casual clothes and returned to the highway, gas can in tow.

They were putting gas into the car at 2:18 a.m. when they were struck by Donald Hinrichs 3d, 22, of Clayton, N.J., who had been drinking, according to police.

At a friend's house several miles away, Kris Keeley, 17, had begun to worry about Tania and Joe. The girls had become friends as freshmen on Delsea's softball team. Someone arrived at the after-prom party and told Keeley that the couple had been involved in a car accident. But at first she wasn't really concerned: Tania had been in fender-benders before.

"Then he said Joey was lying on the ground, so I knew something was really wrong," Keeley said.

She and several classmates drove to Route 55 and were directed by police to Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center, where the critically injured teenagers had been taken.

Joe died at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Tania was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m.

Hinrichs, who remained in guarded condition last night at Kennedy Memorial Hospitals/Washington Township Division, was charged with drunken driving. The investigation is continuing, police said.

Yesterday, grieving friends gathered at the teenagers' homes and shared

memories of the couple.

Joe had blue eyes, close-cropped blond hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose, friends said. They talked about how he loved MTV, Beavis and Butt-Head, and The Lion King.

"He was very outgoing and sweet," remembered Tammy Gates, a fellow 1994 Delsea graduate. "He was the kind of person who would do anything for his friends."

Running out of gas on an important date would have left him both amused and embarrassed, Gates said.

Friends and family said Tania was unique. She spoke very fast, was always laughing, and frequently greeted people with hugs, said her aunt, Diane Stokinger. She intended to study accounting at Gloucester County College after graduation.

"I'm still waiting to wake up," said Keeley, sitting cross-legged in Tania's bedroom. The rhinestone necklace her friend wore to the prom lay on a nearby chair. "I keep waiting for her to walk in."

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