A Calvert County teenager was fatally injured Saturday when his car slammed into a truck, driven by a classmate, that pulled onto Ferry Landing Road in Dunkirk from a side road. Two teenagers in the truck were seriously injured, and police said that alcohol and speed contributed to the collision.
Joseph "Joey" Jay Hatfield, 17, of Owings and a senior at Northern High School, died Sunday of injuries received in the crash.
Friends said that Hatfield, who had been drinking beer and playing pool earlier in the evening with friends, had an argument with his girlfriend and left his home about 11:45 p.m. to follow her home.
Police said that the driver of the truck failed to yield the right of way and pulled into Hatfield's path. But they said that ambulance personnel detected a "moderate" odor of alcohol on Hatfield and that he was exceeding the posted 40 mph speed limit at the time of the crash.
Hatfield was the seventh teenager killed in a car accident in Calvert County since November 1998, including a brother and sister who died on their way to school that year and three Patuxent High School students who died last January after playing a high-speed game of chase on their way home from school.
No charges have been filed in connection with the most recent fatal accident. Authorities said it is under investigation.
A Prince George's Hospital Center spokesman said yesterday that the parents of the other injured teenagers--Patrick Hagner, 17, of Owings, and Casey Karcesky, 15, of Dunkirk--had asked the hospital not to release information about their condition. Police said Hagner was driving the truck. Both were trapped inside the truck after it flipped, authorities said.
Law enforcement officials and educators struggled to explain the rash of teenage driving deaths, blaming the county's explosive population growth--Calvert County is growing faster than any other jurisdiction in the state--winding rural roads and inexperienced and reckless teenage drivers.
Calvert County State's Attorney Robert Riddle called for county and state officials to reexamine all facets of teenage driving in the county, from driver education to school policies that allow some teenagers, mostly high school seniors, to drive to school.
"Personally, this trend disturbs me more than anything else," Riddle said. "It's time we looked at the whole issue."
Chris Schaefer, 17, a high school classmate who said he had spent Saturday evening with Hatfield at Hatfield's home, said: "He and his girlfriend got into a fight, he had a bit to drink, and he went down to see her. . . . Somebody pulled out too quick, and he hit them."
Hatfield's mother said she was not aware that the teenagers--who spent most of the evening in Hatfield's basement room--were drinking.
"Oh God, he's gone," Janet Hatfield cried, looking over a recent picture of her son taken at the homecoming dance. Joey Hatfield was smiling, his arms around his girlfriend's waist.
Janet Hatfield, 41, a hairdresser, went to the site of the accident yesterday afternoon. The place was a strip of road off Route 4, where teenagers and friends of her son's came by in a steady stream throughout the day to stick bouquets of flowers in the snow.
"He was a kid, driving too fast," Hatfield said. "They got into an argument, and he went after her." No one answered the telephone at his girlfriend's home yesterday.
Classmates and teachers at Northern High School mourned the loss of Joey Hatfield. Principal George Miller described Hatfield as a student who was "full of energy" and popular, whose wide-ranging friendships transcended the usual boundaries and cliques at the school.
Janet Hatfield said her son was participating in an early release program at the high school that allowed him to take classes at nearby Charles County Community College and work at his main love, customizing and detailing cars at the J.J. Custom Motorsports body shop in Upper Marlboro.
Janet Hatfield said her son's 1994 Honda Accord was his pride and joy. It had a racy loud muffler and had recently been painted pearl white with blue tint. A $500 car stereo was installed as his Christmas gift, she said.
Friends who saw Joey Hatfield after the collision were shocked by his death; they had seen him conscious and walking around after the accident.
Chad Beckert, Hatfield's boss at the body shop and a friend of the family who was in the emergency room with the teenager while he awaited surgery Sunday morning, said it was discovered during surgery that Hatfield was bleeding internally. Hatfield died of heart failure about 6:30 a.m., Beckert said.
Beckert said he made certain to show Hatfield "I love you" messages the teenager's girlfriend had sent to Hatfield's pager before he went into surgery.
Beckert, 25, of Clinton, said Hatfield's questions at the hospital were about his car and his girlfriend.
"He couldn't remember anything, who he hit," Beckert said. "He just wanted to call his girlfriend."
CAPTION: Joey Hatfield, 17, of Owings, died Sunday of heart failure.