A 17-year-old Alexandria girl has been charged with reckless driving in an Oct. 17 single-vehicle crash that killed a T.C. Williams High School student, a Virginia State Police spokesman said yesterday.
The teenager was driving six members of the school's crew team to a regatta at the Occoquan Reservoir when the crash occurred on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County, police said. The driver had started to change lanes, then realized another vehicle was in the adjacent lane and swerved back quickly, losing control of the Cadillac Escalade, police said.
The SUV rolled several times, killing front-seat passenger Laura Lynam, 17, police said.
The driver also was charged with having too many juvenile passengers in her vehicle, said Sgt. Wallace L. Bouldin, a Virginia State Police spokesman. Bouldin did not know when the charges were filed.
A 2001 state law prohibits people 17 and younger from driving with more than one passenger. The Washington Post generally does not name juveniles charged with crimes.
The accident, which occurred one day before the driver's 17th birthday, was among a string of fatal car crashes in the Washington region this fall involving young drivers. The most recent one killed Sarkis George Nazarian Jr., 16, Saturday morning when the 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee he was driving slid off a rain-slicked, two-lane road in Montgomery County.
In one weekend in September, five teenagers were killed and four were injured in three accidents in Montgomery County.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed Oct. 25 in Fairfax Circuit Court, Lynam was taking pictures of the back-seat passengers and might have moved the harness portion of her seat belt before the 9:35 a.m. crash. She was pronounced dead at the scene, just south of Backlick Road in Springfield.
Police said evidence suggests seat belts in the car were in use. At least four of the SUV's seven occupants were taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital to be treated for relatively minor injuries.
Investigators obtained a search warrant Oct. 22 to examine the vehicle's sensing and diagnostic module. Present in some General Motors Corp. models since 1990, the module controls air bag deployment and collects data before and after a crash, much like an airplane's flight data recorder.
Investigators wanted the module to learn more about the driver's actions prior to and shortly after the crash, according to the affidavit.
Investigators have interviewed the driver and other witnesses who estimated the vehicle's speed at between the road's posted speed limit, 55 mph, and 65 mph. Witnesses also indicated that the driver lost control of the vehicle after overcorrecting.
Lynam, a top student and accomplished rower, hoped to attend Yale University next year and had applied for early admission. She was one of her high school's two National Merit Scholarship semifinalists this year.
Contacted yesterday, her mother, Melinda Lynam, declined to comment on the charges.
T.C. Williams's crew team does not practice in the fall, but many area rowers join off-campus teams. Lynam and her teammates were rowing for the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria, which has competitions for high school students.
Lynam is the third person associated with the T.C. Williams rowing team to die in just over a year. Schuyler H. Jones, 16, was beaten to death in Old Town Alexandria in September 2003, and Steve Catilo, 20, a T.C. Williams graduate and rowing coach, drowned over the summer. Catilo was in a small motor launch accompanying student rowers when he fell overboard.