A 16-year-old boy was killed and his teenage passenger was seriously injured after their car crashed into a tree late yesterday during an apparent race with another vehicle in Vienna, Fairfax County police said.
Police identified the driver last night as Eric Pearce Johnson of Vienna. He died on the scene after losing control of his Mazda Protege at a high rate of speed, swerving off the road and striking a tree in the 10200 block of Vale Drive about 5:25 p.m., police said.
Johnson and his 16-year-old passenger, whose name was not released last night, were students at James Madison High School, police said. The passenger was taken by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries, police said.
Police said their preliminary investigation indicated that the teenagers were racing another vehicle on Vale, a hilly, curvy two-lane street that neighborhood residents say is often used for racing.
Last night, police charged Christopher Lee Simms, 19, of Vienna with reckless driving, a misdemeanor. They said he was driving a Chevrolet Camaro and racing with Johnson's vehicle. Simms was being held last night at Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Police said Johnson was driving west, trying to pass Simms's car and crossing the double yellow line on Vale, near Hunter Mill Drive, when he lost control of his car. A steep curve about 100 feet from the accident site might have contributed to the crash, Sgt. Rich Perez of the Fairfax County Police Department said.
"The driver of the Mazda, with another vehicle, were engaged in an exhibition of speed," Perez said.
Neighbors said the road has served for years as a racetrack for youths in the area.
Kenneth E. Hill, 67, who has lived on Vale Drive for 33 years, said traffic signs warning about a steep curve are posted.
"It hasn't been neglect'' on the part of officials, Hill said. "It's been stupidity on the part of the teenagers that decided they have to race their cars."
Hill said he was inside his home when he heard the loud crash.
"I heard the thud," he said. "I thought it was someone hitting a pothole. I just saw the car wrapped around the tree."
The accident is the 41st traffic fatality this year in Fairfax County.