Local News

Students mourn teen killed in high-speed crash

Posted December 8, 2009 9:38 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2009 10:15 p.m. EST

— East Wake High School students are mourning the loss of a fellow student who died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a high-speed crash.

Gavin Boyd Westover, 16, of 9820 Debnam Road in Zebulon, was riding in a 1996 Chevrolet Camaro on Puryear Road in Knightdale Monday when the driver, Austin Wade Marx, 17, lost control of the car, troopers said. The Camaro went off the road and overturned.

Paramedics transported Westover to WakeMed where he later died.

“It took a while to believe it was true,” Conner Porter, Westover's friend, said Tuesday afternoon.

"I gave his mom a hug and she was just crying hysterically," Jacob Edwards, Westover's friend, recalled.

The teens had left school for an off-campus lunch when the crash happened.

Marx, of 204 Gail Ridge Lane in Wendell, survived the wreck. He was treated at WakeMed Monday and released.

East Wake principal Craig Baker said Marx and his family are trying to cope with the crash and Westover’s death.

"They are understandably upset at the situation,” Baker said.

Highway Patrol troopers said witnesses reported the car was traveling up to 90 mph. Investigators said evidence at the scene supported those reports.

"It doesn't make sense to be driving 90 mph on that particular road, coming out of a curve," Trooper Beckley Vaughan said.

Vaughan said teenage drivers need to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings.

"Add inexperience with high speed and you are subject to get results like we have now," Vaughan explained.

Another East Wake student was killed in a crash on Aug. 29.

Patrick Michael McLaughlin Jr., 17, of Zebulon, died when the vehicle he was driving veered off U.S. 64, near Lizard Lick Road, and hit a guardrail, then overcorrected and hit a tree. Troopers said speed was not a factor in that crash.

Vaughan said he hopes students will drive more carefully after two fatal wrecks among students at the same high school.

“I would not wish this on anybody. This is just the worst thing ever. Words can't express it. It is so bad,” Alex King, Westover's friend, said.

Charges are expected to be filed in Monday's crash, troopers said.

Grief counselors are scheduled to be at East Wake on Wednesday to help students cope with Westover's death.

Teen driving deaths increasing

The state Highway Patrol has seen an increase in the teenage driving deaths they investigate this year, according to statistics.

Since January, at least 52 teens have been killed in crashes investigated by the Highway Patrol.

The patrol said speed is to blame for the majority of these fatal accidents. Distractions, like cell phones, are also a problem.

The patrol and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center offer parent/teen driver agreements – a paper that reminds teens what is expected of them behind the wheel. Experts said this type of agreement can help teens focus.