August 8, 2002
A widow, Kathy Hoskinson of Hampton Chase was devastated last year when her stepfather died of brain cancer. After two losses, she figured she'd be immune to any more tragedies.
Sadly, though, that wasn't the case. Her only child, Brian, 16, was killed last Wednesday, July 31, when the driver of the car in which he was riding lost control and smashed into a tree. Brian was the front-seat passenger and suffered the full force of the impact.
"I had nightmares that this would happen," said his mother. "The teen-age years are the worst for a parent. The problem is they're teens — they don't possess the impulse control or the maturity to realize what they're doing when they get behind the wheel of a car."
The car, a 1995 Pontiac Grand Am, contained four boys — all students at Chantilly High. Fairfax County police say the driver, 17, of Centreville, was traveling east on Bennett Road in Oak Hill "at a high rate of speed, hill jumping." They've also charged him with driving under the influence of drugs — suspected marijuana. (Centre View is not revealing his name since he's a minor).
Both he and the passenger sitting behind him, Tyler Jacobs, 15, of Oak Hill, were treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and released. But Shane Friend, 17, of Cabell's Mill, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit there in critical condition. (He's since been upgraded to fair condition). He sat directly behind Brian and sustained a severe head injury. Police say none of the teens were wearing a seatbelt.
Actually, seven teen-agers in two cars were traveling, one behind the other, on Bennett Road, around 6:30 p.m., when the tragedy occurred. There, at Rayjon Lane, Bennett rises up steeply into a blind intersection and, for more than 20 years, neighbors have complained that thrill-seeking teens have used this spot for hill-hopping — speeding up and sending their cars airborne.
However, David Peterson, whose son Adam, 13, was in the second car, believes excess speed alone caused last week's fatal accident. Peterson, of Hampton Chase, was at the crash site when the police were there and said, "One of the accident-reconstruction officers, a lieutenant, told me they were probably doing between 65 and 80 mph." (The speed limit there is 35 mph).
Hoskinson said Brian and his friends Alan Kanelopoulos — who drove the second car, Adam Peterson and a girl (named Allison) were at her house shortly before 6 p.m., waiting for the Pontiac and its occupants to join them. Then they were going to pick up a friend.
"I had no idea they'd be going somewhere to get into trouble," she said. "Had I known they were doing that kind of stuff, I wouldn't have let [Brian] leave the house. The last thing on my mind was that his safety was in danger."
Kanelopoulos, 17, who knew Brian since they were seventh-graders at Rachel Carson Middle School, said he was driving over the hill when he heard the Pontiac ahead of him crash. He said it first went airborne about 1 1/2 inches over a knoll preceding Rayjon.
"They started to speed up and go over the hill, 1 1/2 feet [above it], and lost control," he said. "When I got over the hill, I saw the car in the tree [off the right side of Bennett]. The impact was between the front of the car and the passenger door. I ripped the driver's-side door off the hinges to get inside. The engine was smoking, so I shut it off, and I burned my arm. Allison pulled over a car and told them to call 911."
Kanelopoulos said Friend was thrown on top of Jacobs in the back seat. And although it was initially believed that Brian died instantly, Kanelopoulos said he was actually alive for two to three minutes afterward. "I checked his pulse and, at first, he had one," he said. [Brian] looked at me, and then blood came out of his mouth, nose and ears — then he didn't have a pulse."
Adam also saw the car go airborne and heard it "bottom out" on the road. Then came the squealing of tires and brakes. "We went over to the car, and I saw Brian unconscious and bleeding severely," he said. Adam lived across the street from Brian and knew him since he was 4, so his death hit him especially hard.
After Brian died, Adam became hysterical, but first he did what he could to help. "I was holding his head up so he could breathe, and me and Alan were telling him not to move," said Adam. "Allison was holding [the driver's] head and opening his mouth so he wouldn't swallow his tongue."
Marie G. Potter, who lives across the street from the crash site, was in her kitchen when she heard a "horrible sound" and rushed outside. She said the teens in the second car had gotten out and were screaming, "Somebody help us." She called 911, and she and other neighbors gathered around the car.
"It skidded sideways, so the passenger side took the full impact of the tree, and the roof caved in on top of the passenger [Brian]," she said. "The car was totally crushed — I'm surprised they all weren't killed."
David Peterson said that, once the Pontiac's frame struck the road, the car bounced onto the grass for about 200 feet before slamming into the tree. "All four wheels were on the grass and, at the high rate of speed they were going, it's like driving on ice — [the driver] had no way to recover from that."
Potter said police cut off the roof to extricate the boys and placed a blanket over Brian. "And that's what I still see when I look out my front door," she said on Saturday. "I see them struggling [in the car]."
Judy Ondrejko, who lives on Rayjon Lane, also went to the crash site and she, too, is haunted by what she observed. "It was a nightmare — and I'm a nurse and I've seen a lot," she said. "Three of the paramedics leaving the scene were visibly shaken."
Adam called his mother, and she went across the street to Brian's house. "She said, 'You have to come with me, right away,' and that they had been in a car accident," said Hoskinson. "She took me to the hospital, and we beat the choppers there."
She said she'd been preparing herself for the worst because Adam was so hysterical when he called home. Her fears were confirmed when the Medivac helicopters arrived at Inova Fairfax Hospital. "[They] brought three out of the four kids, and not Brian," said Hoskinson. "I did the math."
And although her heart is breaking, she said she's not angry at the driver because he and Brian were friends and he's devastated by what's happened. And ultimately, she blames the tragedy on the driver's youth and lack of maturity. Still, she grieves for her child and for what could have been.
"I just can't even make sense of it," said Hoskinson. "It's such a waste of a bright future and a special person who contributed so much to so many people's lives."