Girls' Families Struggle to Find Answers

Jordan Wells, left, and Ashley Younger.
Jordan Wells, left, and Ashley Younger.
By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stephanie Younger kissed her daughter and reassured the frightened teenager as she lay on a stretcher on a Southern Maryland roadway illuminated by ambulance lights.

"You'll be okay," she remembers telling her. "They just want to check you out. You'll be fine."

It was hours before she learned that the medevac helicopter that picked up 17-year-old Ashley Younger crashed Saturday night on its way to Prince George's Hospital Center and that her daughter was among the four people killed. Ashley's friend Jordan Wells, 18, survived but was critically injured.

Yesterday, as Younger planned a funeral for her only child, Scott and Lynn Wells sat vigil for their daughter at a Baltimore trauma center, relieved that she would recover but heartbroken for the other victims.

The parents of both teens yesterday questioned what happened that night, when their daughters, friends from high school, survived a car accident only to be involved in a deadly helicopter crash.

"If I am talking to her, and there is no blood and there is no broken anything, and it's not life-threatening, and if the weather is already bad, why would you put a child by herself without a parent in a helicopter?" Younger asked in an interview. "To think that my child died by herself in a helicopter."

The Wellses said they are frustrated that they were not notified of the accident or the helicopter crash until 4 a.m. As they waited at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, the couple expressed a mix of gratitude and sorrow. In addition to their daughter's friendship with Younger, they knew the pilot of the state police helicopter. Two paramedics also died in the crash.

"We're very, very thankful our daughter is alive," Scott Wells said. "But we're deeply aware of the tragedy."

On Saturday evening, the teenagers, both recent graduates of Waldorf's Westlake High School, went to a carnival and thought about seeing a movie but decided to call it an early night. Wells was only a few blocks from Younger's home when she lost control of her Ford Taurus sedan, skidded across a grassy median and hit a few trees and another car.

Ashley Younger called her mother just before 11 p.m. and calmly explained that she and Wells had just been in an accident. Her mother rushed to the scene with her best friend and Younger's grandmother. Ashley seemed fine, her mother recalled: no bleeding, no broken bones, just some chest pain.

"The way she grabbed my arm, I knew she was scared," Stephanie Younger said yesterday. "I kissed her and told her, 'You'll be okay.' "

Meanwhile, Scott and Lynn Wells wondered why their daughter did not return home at 11 p.m. as promised. It was unlike her to be late, so they frantically called her cellphone and searched for her.

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