Street Racing Accident Spurs A Nightmarish Recovery

Gregory Johnson Jr., 16, the youngest victim of the Accokeek street racing accident.
Gregory Johnson Jr., 16, the youngest victim of the Accokeek street racing accident. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)
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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

In his first interview since a deadly street racing accident, the youngest and most seriously injured victim of the Accokeek tragedy said he has had nightmares about the crash that nearly killed him.

Gregory Johnson, then 15, said that the crash has left him angry and jittery.

"I've been real paranoid, like jumpy about things," said Gregory, who five months after the accident is trying to put his life back together. "I check my surroundings a lot. I was never like that before."

Authorities this week charged two of Gregory's acquaintances with eight counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count each of reckless driving and engaging in a speed contest in the February crash.

Eight people died and several others were injured when a car plowed into the crowd in one of the worst racing accidents in Maryland history. Authorities on Tuesday charged Darren Jamar Bullock, 21, and Tavon Taylor, 18, both of Waldorf, who are in the county jail pending a bond hearing today or tomorrow, authorities said.

Gregory, now 16, sits at home pondering his changed life. His memory of the crash is sketchy but he remembers some of that horrible morning. He and friends had been hanging out. Just before 3 a.m., the group stopped by a stretch of Indian Head Highway favored by illegal street racers. They watched with other spectators as two drivers sped to the finish line. Minutes later, as he was leaving a message on his cousin's voice mail, bodies started flying.

"I didn't know what had hit me or even that I had been hit," Gregory said. "But I do remember going airborne. . . . Then I remember when I started coming down, twisting my body so I would land on my side and not my face."

He recalled being placed in an ambulance, then later, transferred to a helicopter where he pleaded with police to preserve his new outfit. "I asked the guy in the helicopter, 'Don't cut off my clothes, officer,' " Gregory recalled. "He said, 'I have to because you are so bloody.' "

The teenager, who suffered a broken pelvis and femur, a bruised lung and damaged kidneys, along with other injuries, underwent more than a dozen operations. He was hospitalized for almost four months.

Gregory's mother, Canice Jones-Proctor, said the family learned early on who might be responsible for the accident.

As his family sped to Suburban Hospital, Gregory's sister, Caniesha Johnson, 17, spoke to a young man via cellphone who told her he was in the Crown Victoria that crashed into the crowd, Jones-Proctor said.

"He said, 'I'm on my way to the hospital.' He told her they were in the accident," Jones-Proctor recalled. "That's when [Caniesha] told him, 'You know y'all hit my brother!' He hung up."

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