Probe into crash that killed teens con­tin­ues

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY DONNA ST. GE­ORGE AND CHRIS­TINE AYALA donna.stge­orge@wash­post.com chris­tine.ayala@wash­post.com

As the Woot­ton High School com­mu­nity mourned the deaths of two teenagers killed in a latenight car crash, the 18-year-old driver re­mained in a hos­pi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, Mont­gomery County po­lice said Satur­day.

Po­lice said they are con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the fa­tal col­li­sion, just be­fore mid­night Thurs­day, but think that al­co­hol and speed were con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

The two teenagers killed — Alexan­der Murk, 18, of Po­tomac, and Calvin Jia-Xing Li, 18, of Rockville— grad­u­ated last month with Woot­ton’s Class of 2015. The driver, Sa­muel Joseph El­lis, also a May grad­u­ate, was Woot­ton’s star quar­ter­back.

The three teens and another friend, who suf­fered mi­nor in­juries, had been at a party where un­der­age drink­ing oc­curred be­fore they got into the car, po­lice said. El­lis lost con­trol while driv­ing along Du­fief Mill Road in North Po­tomac. The teenagers who died were not re­strained with seat belts, po­lice said.

“We’re look­ing to con­duct a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble,” Mont­gomery Po­lice Capt. Tom Di­done said. No charges have been filed in con­nec­tion with the crash, he said. About eight young peo­ple out­side the party were cited for un­der­age al­co­hol pos­ses­sion, he said.

Near the site of the crash, shaken stu­dents and par­ents braved the rain Satur­day and dropped by a makeshift me­mo­rial, where bou­quets of flow­ers were laid out, along with can­dles, Amer­i­can flags, a football and a sign that read #woot­ton­strong.

“They were the ones to put a smile on peo­ple’s faces,” said one teenager, who de­clined to give his name but de­scribed him­self as a close friend of those in­volved.

“They were a big part of the Woot­ton fam­ily,” said another.

Oth­ers spoke of dev­as­ta­tion across the com­mu­nity. A vigil was held at the school Fri­day night.

“Peo­ple are just lit­er­ally in shock,” said Rachel Box­man, mother of a se­nior at Woot­ton. “I know there are peo­ple who woke up to­day and said, ‘I just can’t be­lieve this is real.’ ”

In a Face­book mes­sage to The Washington Post, a football team­mate, Jason Lazar, de­scribed El­lis as an “awe­some player” who made things hap­pen and brought the team to vic­tory many times.

Li, he said, was a wide re­ceiver at Woot­ton who “played with ex­treme pas­sion for the game and al­ways put in his best ef­fort, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stance.”

He said Murk was headed to Penn State. “A great kid,” Lazar said. “He al­ways knew how to make you laugh or smile. He made count­less jokes and would brighten any room. He also had a fash­ion style ri­valed by no one.”

Box­man said the deaths have been “ex­cru­ci­at­ing” for a close com­mu­nity. Peo­ple are pray­ing for all the af­fected fam­i­lies, she said. “They have such a hard road ahead of them,” she said. “I have no doubt this com­mu­nity will pull to­gether.”

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