Two teenagers were killed yesterday when the Jeep in which they were riding veered out of control on a wet Glen Echo road and struck a tree, Montgomery County police said.
The accident occurred about 12:45 p.m. when a 1983 CJ-7 Jeep traveling in the southbound lane of Sangamore Road crossed into the northbound lane, then swerved back. Witnesses said the car "overcorrected," spun off the road and struck a tree on the driver's side.
Montgomery County police identified the driver as Robert David Barefoot Jr., 16, of Kannapolis, N.C. The passenger was identified as Arthur Gordon Phillips, also 16, of the 5100 block of Wapakoneta Road in Bethesda.
One of the teenagers, who suffered severe head injuries, was removed from the Jeep by witnesses, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue official said. The other teenager suffered severe head and chest injuries but remained in the Jeep. Both youths were taken by ambulance to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where they were pronounced dead shortly after arrival, police spokeswoman Ann Evans said.
Investigators ruled out alcohol and speeding as factors in the crash and said it was likely caused by driver error and bad weather conditions. Barefoot had recently received his driver's license in North Carolina. Both occupants, officials said, were wearing seat belts.
Barefoot and Phillips were childhood friends who had lived three blocks apart until Barefoot moved with his mother to North Carolina, according to Raymond Toone, a friend of the Barefoot family. The younger Barefoot had been spending the holiday with his father, Robert David Barefoot Sr. of Bethesda, who owned the Jeep.
About a year ago, Phillips used money he had been saving from summer work at his parents' art design company to buy a classic Chevrolet Camaro. He and his father, Gary, embarked on a project to rebuild the car from scratch, said a neighbor, Rita Rolph.
Together, the father and his son spent evenings and many weekends fixing up the Camaro. Just last week, Arthur Phillips had put on the final coat of silver paint, and on Wednesday, he had attached the final trimmings on the car, which neighbors said remained parked in the family's driveway last night.
"It wasn't in the best condition, but they made it into something beautiful," Rolph said last night. "It was his pride."
Yesterday's crash was the second fatal collision involving Montgomery County teenagers in recent weeks. Last month, 17-year-old Mikhail Barg was killed and two passengers were injured when Barg lost control of his car and it slammed into a steel pole in Germantown.
The state toughened its driving law in July, increasing to four months from two months the length of time youths are required to keep their learner's permits. Now, the youngest age at which anyone can obtain a full driver's license is 17 years and 7 months.
Staff writers Annie Gowen and Phuong Ly contributed to this report.