Teenager charged in accident that killed GW freshman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police have filed charges against the teenaged driver of a luxury convertible involved in a crash that killed his friend, who also was his teammate on the George Washington High School football team.
The Lexus convertible rolled over a hillside on Quarry Ridge Road, which is in an upscale subdivision on one of the hilltops overlooking Kanawha City.
Passenger Drew Morton, 14, was ejected and later died of his injuries.
The 15-year-old driver was charged with negligent homicide Sunday evening, said Lt. Shawn Williams, commander of the Charleston Police Community Services Division.
Williams declined to identify the teen. State law prevents officials from releasing the names of accused juveniles.
However, friends at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night on George Washington High's Steve Edwards Sr. Field identified the victim as Drew and the driver of the convertible as Reed Deer, a 15-year-old freshman.
Drew played offensive and defensive tackle for GW. Reed was the team's kicker, according to a team roster.
He was arraigned before a Kanawha County magistrate Sunday evening and released to his parents, the lieutenant said.
Williams said the boy was driving with a learner's permit, although there was no licensed adult driver in the vehicle, and speed appeared to be a factor in the crash.
"He had no business on the road, none at all without his parents," Williams said.
The lieutenant said the boy's father was not home at the time of the incident, and officers were not sure where the boy's mother was at the time. The parents are Dr. Tim and Melissa Deer.
Police don't expect to file charges against the couple.
"There are no indicators to lead us to believe they had any knowledge of what was going on," Williams said. "We haven't been able to uncover anything to make us believe otherwise."
The boys had left Reed's home on Quarry Ridge headed for Tudor's Biscuit World in Kanawha City about 11:15 a.m. Sunday in a 2006 Lexus convertible coupe owned by Reed's parents. He lost control and struck a utility pole and tree at the edge of the road.
Williams said the crash occurred on a stretch of road where it is "very easy to pick up speed."
He said officers are reconstructing the crash and the teen's speed had not yet been determined.
"He told Brian Jones (an officer) at the scene he was speeding," Williams said. "He was obviously going way too fast for that roadway. Way too fast for his age and driving experience."
The top was down on the convertible, which flipped over the hillside. Drew was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. He died from his injuries at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital.
Reed was wearing a seatbelt and suffered no apparent injuries.
Williams, who serves as the regional coordinator for the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, has led several traffic safety campaigns and as an officer has investigated many crashes.
"Textbook, absolutely textbook," Williams said of Sunday's crash. "I can never say anything for certain, but I'm confident, based on the injuries of the driver and he didn't have a scratch on him, that if (Drew) had been wearing a seatbelt, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
"It's a true definition of a tragedy, and it should not happen in 2012," Williams said. "We should never see the death of a child as a result of something like this. It should never happen."
Williams said it's disheartening to lose a child in this manner after all the campaigns aimed at seatbelt use. One such campaign was started at George Washington High after a prominent student athlete was killed in a car crash three years ago.
Signs with a blue and silver tennis ball and the letters "WAS" are displayed at the school, reminding drivers to "Wear A Seatbelt."
Jane Shuman started the campaign at George Washington in the fall of 2009, months after her son, Willy Shuman, 19, a 2009 GW graduate bound for the U.S. Air Force Academy, died in a car crash.
Shuman, a prominent tennis player, was not wearing a seatbelt in the June 2009 crash and was partially ejected from the front seat of a vehicle driven by a friend who was under the influence.
The campaign has extended to schools across the state, and blue and silver stickers reminding drivers to buckle up can be seen on vehicles all over Charleston.
Williams has spoken at schools and appeared in advertisements reminding motorists and passengers to wear seatbelts.
"It's disheartening, because teens will be teens, but it's ingrained into their heads almost from birth to wear a seatbelt," Williams said.
If convicted, Reed could face up to one year in prison and a fine of no more than $1,000. His permit will be revoked if he is found guilty.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.