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Va. Teen Killed In I-95 Crash

Senior Was Headed To Rowing Contest

By Rebecca Dana and Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 18, 2004; Page B01

A 17-year-old senior at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School was killed yesterday in an automobile crash on Interstate 95 while going to a rowing competition with a group of teenage friends.

Laura Lynam, described as a top student and an accomplished rower who hoped to attend Yale University next year and thought about becoming a doctor, died in the crash in the Newington area of Fairfax County.

Accident Victims: The number of teens killed in traffic accidents has surged in recent weeks.
Lon Anderson of AAA was online discuss the recent increase in accidents involving young drivers in the region.
Fatal Accidents Involving Teens: Director for AAA Mid-Atlantic, Lon Anderson, discusses the recent increase in fatal traffic accidents involving teenagers.

The crash was the latest in a series of car wrecks in the Washington region involving young people.

Lynam and the others in the car were on their way to a regatta in Occoquan. None of the other girls suffered more than a minor injury.

It was the third death in a little more than a year to involve a current or former T.C. Williams rower. Schuyler H. Jones, 16, was fatally beaten in Old Town Alexandria in September 2003. The rowing community in Alexandria is close-knit, and after Jones's death, Laura Lynam's mother, Melinda, spoke to reporters on behalf of the victim. In June, a former T.C. Williams rower drowned while coaching rowers in a summer program.

Last night, a T.C. Williams parent said of Laura Lynam's death, "It's just an incredible tragedy."

The school's principal, John Porter, added, "She was just a vibrant young lady who was strong in the classroom and a strong rower, too."

"We're just devastated," a relative of Laura Lynam's said. "It's an awful, awful loss."

A quickly organized memorial service last night brought several hundred people to Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, where friends, classmates and others hugged and sobbed.

"She's probably the most intelligent person I know," Geoff Brown, a fellow student, told a reporter after the service.

Details of the crash were not available from police last night. A dispatcher for the Virginia State Police said that there had been a fatal accident in the southbound lanes of I-95 at 9:39 a.m. just south of Backlick Road in Springfield.

The news spread quickly through Alexandria's academic and rowing communities. Porter heard about the crash within an hour and a half. He and Peter Coppelman, who was president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association last year, gave this account:

Lynam was in a Cadillac Escalade, an SUV, with at least five other girls, headed to the rowing event. Crew is a spring sport at T.C. Williams, but crew members also row on club teams. Lynam apparently was rowing for the Old Dominion Boat Club, which has a fall competition program.

"The car made a sharp turn," said Coppelman, who added that he did not know the reason. Porter said he thought that there might have been an attempt to change lanes. The SUV went out of control and rolled over at least two times.

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