Quinten Plummer and Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times
Authorities worked well into the afternoon Tuesday, piecing together a single-vehicle accident that claimed the lives of three Brooks County High School football players and sent a fourth to a Florida hospital.
Jicarre Watkins, Shawn Waters, and Johnie Parker were killed in the wreck, according to officials. De’Vron Whitfield was injured in the accident; he was lifeflighted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., where he was reportedly in critical condition Tuesday evening.
All four teens played Brooks High football. Watkins was a rising senior, who played the line of scrimmage and wore No. 72 last season. Waters was a rising senior, who was a running back and linebacker; he wore No. 32. Parker, a rising junior, played tight-end and linebacker; he wore No. 26. Whitfield is a rising junior, who played running back and defensive back last season, wearing the No. 7.
They were reportedly driving from football practice Tuesday morning. The wreck occurred on Webster Road, a short distance from the high school.
Dispatchers relayed news of the accident to patrol officers and emergency-management services at approximately 9:30 a.m., according to Trooper First Class Victor Mobley of Georgia State Patrol Post 13. First responders found the crashed Ford Expedition folded in on itself and lodged in a tree, according to reports.
The state patrol’s Special Collision Reconstruction Team tentatively determined that the SUV had been traveling south on Webster Road, near Highway 133, when it veered off the east side of the road then slammed into a tree on the west side of the road as the driver sought to regain control, Mobley said.
Responders removed the SUV’s roof to reach motorists that had been pinned, according to reports. Whitfield reportedly left the scene responsive and with his eyes open, according to reports at the scene. He was reportedly life flighted from the scene to Shands.
Reviewing the compacted SUV and scanning the school books and awards and personal effects that littered a neighboring field, Brooks County Sheriff Mike Dewey deemed the mangled vehicle the worst he’d seen in 29 years of law enforcement.
“It’s just a terrible accident,” said Dewey as he glanced back to the littered fields. “These boys had their whole lives ahead of them, but it all ended with this crash. This a tragedy for their families, and our county.”
Brooks County Schools issued a statement Tuesday afternoon: “Brooks County Schools is saddened by the tragic car accident that killed three of its high school students and left one in critical condition. ... Brooks County Schools asks that the community, students and staff please keep the families of these students in this tragic accident in their prayers.”
The school system was making counselors available to support students and staff seeking help.
The Brooks County Board of Education canceled its regular Tuesday night meeting as a result of the wreck and the evening vigil.