WASHINGTON — Four young people attended an underage drinking party before their car crashed in North Potomac Thursday night, Montgomery County police say.
Shedding tears, friends and family came to a makeshift memorial at the site. They left with flowers, a football, a basketball and a team jersey. It is believed all four teens attended Wootton High School in Rockville. Two of them were said to be members of the school’s football team this past season.
The crash killed two passengers, and injured the driver and another passenger.
“The car did appear to go airborne,” says Captain Thomas Didone with Montgomery County police.
Montgomery County police identify the driver of the 2006 Acura TSX as 18-year-old Samuel Joseph Ellis of North Potomac. He was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Police are not identifying the front seat passenger because of the ongoing investigation. That passenger received minor injuries and has been released from the hospital.
The two back seat passengers were discovered deceased by first responders. They have have been identified as 18-year-old Alexander Murk, of Potomac, and 18-year-old Calvin Jia-Xing Li, of Rockville.
Police say the occupants of the car left the party, and were traveling west in the 13800 block of Dufief Mill Road, near the Travilah Elementary School, when it left the road and hit a tree shortly before midnight.
The car ended up in the front yard of a home.
Detectives are investigating speed, alcohol, and lack of safety restraints as possible factors in the crash.
“We found beverage containers that were still chilled to the touch at the collision scene,” Didone says.
Blocks from the scene, a speed camera sits on the side of Dufief Mill Road and it is aimed in the direction in which the car was traveling in the seconds before the crash. Didone says due to state law, the camera is turned off at night and won’t be able to aide police in the investigation.
Police went to the home of the party in which they believed the teens attended before the crash. Didone says there was an adult at the home ant that citations were issued. Police are investigating the party further and the findings will be presented to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney Office. Prosecutors will then decide on any additional charges in the case.
Didone says, now is the time for parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of drinking. “Good kids make bad decisions and when they are involving alcohol, they often times deal with tragedy,” he says.
Montgomery County police plan to continue cracking down on adults who allow kids to drink. “These tragedies will continue until we stop enabling underage drinking,” says Didone.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 240-773-6620.
Wootton High School Principal Michael Doran said Friday that staff, grief counselors, and other personnel will be available to students on Monday, and that resources for talking about death and grief as well as alcohol and drugs, are posted on the school’s website.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the driver had died. The driver survived the crash.