SEABROOK – Two teenage passengers involved in a severe car accident near DuVal High School on March 26 are in “critical but stable” condition at a local hospital as preliminary investigations show that they were ejected out of the vehicle after a head-on collision.
The two injured students were a part of a group of five traveling back to school before the incident occurred, Prince George’s County Police (PGPD) said. At approximately 11:52 a.m., the students were traveling on Good Luck Road before being hit by a car backing out of the driveway.
After being hit, the students’ car spun out into oncoming traffic before getting into a head-on collision with another vehicle. According to Police Chief Hank Stawinski, none of the five students were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, with the front two passengers being spared from being ejected by airbags.
“Preliminarily, these students are not at fault in this,” Stawinski said. “You’re not going to see it coming; you are not going to swerve to avoid that collision, and you do not have to be traveling at 100 miles an hour.”
Two of the three students sitting in the back seats were “partially ejected” from the car.
All three backseat passengers were taken to the hospital following the accident. According to PGPD spokesperson Jennifer Donelan, the one student who was not ejected from the vehicle was released from the hospital after recovering from their injuries.
The identities of the students have been withheld because they are minors. Officials said that they do not know why the students were traveling during school hours. The driver and passenger in the car the students collided with were sent a local hospital, and both suffered minor injuries.
“I happy to say that we are guardedly optimistic that all three of those young people that received serious injuries are expected to survive,” Stawinski said. “…We are guardedly optimistic that all three of these young lives will continue.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools Interim CEO Monica Goldson confirmed at a press conference following the accident that all the students in the car were seniors, but only one had a half-day schedule, which allows students to leave campus early to attend college classes or to go to work.
County high schools do not have an open lunch period.
PGCPS administrative staff arrived at the scene as well as to the hospital to check on the students. Counselors were available to talk to DuVal students and staff about the incident as well. Goldson said a letter was sent home with students to give to parents to alert them of the accident and to talk to their children about safe driving habits.
“I have a teenage driver so I can empathize with what those parents in the accident could be experiencing or thinking about because I know it went through my heart,” Goldson said. “We have 134,000 students, and I feel like every last one of them are mine, which is why we are all gathered here today.”
Reactions from students ranged from offering prayers to their classmates as well as requests of taking down photos from the accident scene. Others on social media used the incident as a reminder of using a seat belt when operating a vehicle.
“Seat belts on in the back seat also,” Maria Gr said. “Kids riding in a vehicle with other kids have a higher chance of being in a dangerous serious collision.”
The investigation is ongoing and will take some time to complete, Donelan said. Some cases take six months, and others are shorter than a week. The other driver who backed up into the student’s vehicle stayed at the scene of the accident and has been cooperating with police.
An accident reconstruction analysis will be completed, and officials will study the toxicology report of both drivers once it is completed. Only after completing their investigation and determining who was at fault of the accident will county police turn over any possible charges to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“We have to know what’s what for ourselves first before pressing charges,” Donelan said. “…We have seen too many deaths in these types of accidents (so) that is why it is important to wear your seatbelt.”
The accident comes days after county officials announced the start of a new initiative to encourage and change the driving culture in the county called #DrivingItHome.
Introduced on March 22 at Oxon Hill High School, the driving safety awareness partnership was established to raise awareness of safe driving on six critical areas: seatbelt use, texting and driving, driver distractions, drunk driving, highway speed and aggressive driving.
“The truth of the matter is we have had far too many afternoons like this one,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said. “We just finished a terrible winter with 13 traffic fatalities in the county, and it looks to me that we are heading to a freighting spring.”