A 17-year-old senior at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School was killed yesterday in an automobile crash on Interstate 95 while going to a rowing competition with a group of teenage friends.
Laura Lynam, described as a top student and an accomplished rower who hoped to attend Yale University next year and thought about becoming a doctor, died in the crash in the Newington area of Fairfax County.
The crash was the latest in a series of car wrecks in the Washington region involving young people.
Lynam and the others in the car were on their way to a regatta in Occoquan. None of the other girls suffered more than a minor injury.
It was the second death of a T.C. Williams rower in a little more than a year. Schuyler H. Jones, 16, was fatally beaten in Old Town Alexandria in September 2003. The rowing community in Alexandria is close-knit, and after Jones's death, Laura Lynam's mother, Melinda, spoke to reporters on behalf of the victim.
Last night, a T.C. Williams parent said of Laura Lynam's death, "It's just an incredible tragedy."
The school's principal, John Porter, added, "She was just a vibrant young lady who was strong in the classroom and a strong rower, too."
"We're just devastated," a relative of Lynam's said. "It's an awful, awful loss."
Details of the crash were not available from police last night. A dispatcher for the Virginia State Police said that there had been a fatal accident in the southbound lanes of I-95 at 9:39 a.m. just south of Backlick Road in Springfield.
The news spread quickly through Alexandria's academic and rowing communities. Porter heard about the crash within an hour and a half. He and Peter Coppelman, who was president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association last year, gave this account:
Lynam was in a Cadillac Escalade, an SUV, with six other girls, headed for the rowing event. Crew is a spring sport at T.C. Williams, but crew members also row on club teams. Laura was apparently rowing for the Old Dominion Boat Club, which has a fall competition program.
"The car made a sharp turn," said Coppelman, who added that he did not know the precise reason. Porter said he thought that there may have been an attempt to change lanes. The SUV went out of control and rolled over at least two or three times.
Laura Lynam died at the scene.
Others in the car who were taken to hospitals were released by yesterday afternoon. One, according to Porter, had a broken finger. He declined to identify the driver of the SUV, other than to say she is also a rower.
In the words of an aunt, Lynam was "a beautiful, smart, funny young person" who was at the top of her class at T.C. Williams and was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
She was a serious student who loved to read and studied French in Paris last summer, said the aunt, Clare Lynam Goldfogle. She was also "very passionate about crew" and had many friends among the other rowers, Goldfogle said.
She liked children, was a babysitter in her neighborhood and liked to braid her niece's hair. She was also a skilled seamstress who helped her mother with sewing projects, Goldfogle added.
"We're obviously grieving."
Staff writers Allan Lengel and Martin Weil contributed to this report.