A teenage girl and a man were killed after they were ejected from a vehicle that crashed on I-285 in Dunwoody Tuesday night. And police said the crash happened because one of the passengers had distracted the driver.
The victims, both from Woodstock, have been identified as 18-year- old Shania Boettcher and 22-year-old Darius Valcarcel, according to Dunwoody police.
Boettcher was a member of the Etowah High School Class of 2014, scheduled to graduate Friday, according to a statement from Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby. Valcarcel was a 2010 graduate of Etowah High and one of the injured is also a senior at the school, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The driver and another passenger, whose names have not been released, were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police spokesman Officer Tim Fecht said.
The crash happened shortly before 8:30 p.m. on I-285 east bound near Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Fecht said. The driver of a Ford Explorer was heading eastbound on the interstate when the crash happened, he said.
Investigators said the driver was distracted by a passenger, which caused her to lose control of the vehicle. They did not say what the passenger did to distract the driver who overcorrected, causing the vehicle to turn sideways. The vehicle then rolled several times before it came to a rest on the right shoulder, Fecht said.
One of the passengers was completely ejected and the other partially, he said. Both died at the scene, police said. It's unclear if any charges will be filed in the incident.
Wednesday night, students, friends, family and loved ones gathered for a vigil for the students killed.
Anthony White, who said he was Boettcher’s boyfriend of almost two years, suffered minor injuries in the crash, the AJC reported. He said his girlfriend was a “bright, brilliant person” who was “beautiful beyond measure.”
Hailey Lyerly said she was torn up after her friend’s death, but, “I have peace about it because I know I’m going to see her again.”
Darius and Shania, whom everyone called Lucy, were part of group that was headed to see the laser show at Stone Mountain at the time of the crash, friends told the paper.
“Eagle Mountain is in mourning for two fallen Eagles,” Deputy Superintendent Brian Hightower said in a statement. “As is tradition at Etowah High School, a chair is left empty at the graduation ceremony for any student from the class who has passed away. A chair will be left empty for Lucy, her name will be listed in the program and her name will be read along with her graduating classmates.”
Freshman Melissa Wright didn’t know those killed, but said she was saddened by the morning announcements about the deaths, the AJC reported.
“One girl’s mouth dropped,” Wright said. “We all kind of stopped. We all had final exams, but it was still there.”
The investigation is ongoing, and police are asking anyone with information about what happened to contact Dunwoody police at (678) 382-6919 or email Officer Tomalka at firstname.lastname@example.org.