On Sunday morning, at 9:44 a.m. 17-year-old Laura Lynam, a senior at T.C. Williams High School, died when the SUV in which she was riding flipped over near Newington on I-95 South. Laura was riding in a vehicle with six other girls, all members of T.C.’s crew team, who were on their way to a crew meet at Occoquan.
Virginia State Police said that the 17-year-old driver was changing lanes when she saw a car in the lane she was about to enter. She over corrected returning to her original lane and the top-heavy SUV rolled over several times. Police said that the driver was going 65 miles per hour at the time of the crash. She was also driving a vehicle with more teens than Virginia law permits.
That law, amended in 2003, says that a driver under the age of 18 is only permitted to have one passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle at any given time for the first year the teen has a license. After that, teen drivers are permitted to carry up to three passengers under the age of 18 until their own 18th birthday.
According to law enforcement sources, the law was written to keep inexperienced drivers from being distracted by too many young people in a car. Police could charge the driver of the car in which Laura was riding with reckless driving and with violating the teen passenger limit. No decision has been made.
WHO WAS LAURA LYNAM? “She was a wonderful young lady – a scholar, an athlete and an all-round wonderful person,” said John Porter, the principal at T.C. Williams. “She had just completed her application to Yale for early decision. She hoped to attend school there and eventually go to medical school. Her death is a tragedy for our school community and for the larger community that she touched.”
Laura was a member of T.C.’s crew team, beginning in ninth grade. She was editor-in-chief of her ninth grade and the 12th grade yearbooks. She was a member of T.C.’s orchestra, playing the violin. She was also a member of the Latin Club and the Latin Honor Society. She planned to study molecular biology at Yale and, eventually, go to medical school to become a dermatologist. She had just been named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
“She had the world at her feet,” said Melinda Lynam, Laura’s mother. “She wanted to go to Yale where her brother Sean goes to school. She had been there on a crew visit and hoped to continue rowing.
“Rowing really helped Laura grow into her own. She found something she loved to do and made great friends doing it,” Lynam said.
Last summer, Laura spent a month in France. “She went to France speaking really no French and came home speaking it quite well,” Lynam said. “She had such a good time. I’m so glad that we could give that to her.”
Laura loved her brothers and her friends. “She and her brothers never really fought,” Lynam said. “We traveled through Ireland last summer and we never heard one squabble.”
ON SUNDAY MORNING, Laura was headed to Occoquan to row. Her mother was already there to row herself. “I got the call and I knew she didn’t make it even though they wouldn’t tell me at the hospital,” Lynam said. “Her friends told me that she died singing.”
Services were held at Blessed Sacrament. A community memorial will be held in the main auditorium at T.C. Williams on Friday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited.