An unusual, tragic day
There’s no easy way to say it: Last Friday was awful.
In the span of almost 12 hours, four young lives were lost on Charles County roads in three separate car crashes.
The tragedies began at 12:25 p.m. when two Westlake High School seniors were killed after the car they were in crashed into a traffic light pole at the intersection of Smallwood Drive West and St. Nicholas Drive in Waldorf. The driver, Colin Bipat, 17, and a passenger, Desmond Cooke, 17, perished in the crash, while another passenger, Caleb Marshall, 18, remains hospitalized.
Then, five hours later at 5:40 p.m., a car driven by Akeema James, 25, of La Plata was heading down U.S. 301 near Gillespie Circle when, for reasons still under investigation, the car left the roadway and struck a tree. James was extricated from the vehicle by rescue crews and flown to a hospital where she later died from the injuries she suffered. In the car with James were her two children, ages 4 and 6, who had been restrained in safety seats and survived the crash.
The fourth life was claimed at shortly before midnight when deputies with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a single-vehicle collision on St. Peter’s Church Road. Kendull Proctor, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police believe Proctor had lost control of his vehicle negotiating a curve, left the roadway and struck a tree.
In two of the instances — the first two accidents — police believe speed was a factor. Circumstances for the third accident are still being investigated.
All of these victims were young — two of them not yet out of high school. The young mother won’t see her children grow up, and they will have to go on without her. Proctor, too, was young and had family. For such carnage to happen in such a short span of time is startling.
This should be a moment to reflect on our own mortality. We sometimes forget, day to day, that when we are in our vehicles, we are driving machinery that weighs tons but can easily be damaged and no amount of safety features are going to ensure we survive after hitting an immovable object at a high rate of speed. Charles County had a total of 24 traffic-related fatalities in 2016, and has had seven already this year. Even one traffic fatality is one too many.
Let’s take a moment to mourn these four young lives. It is not a time to place blame on them even if investigations reveal the drivers made errors that contributed to their deaths. It does nothing but further compound the tragedy to their survivors by placing blame on them. Instead, we, as drivers, should do our best to be responsible, obey traffic laws, put down our cell phones, and be more aware of our surroundings as we travel local roadways. We’re not only responsible for our own safety — barring any unforeseen circumstances — but responsible to those around us. Don’t be another statistic.