After the deaths this year of Andrew Hawkinberry, Morgan Danielle Beverly and Holly Spivey in just three gloomy weeks last fall, it finally seemed that Columbia County students would be able to go the rest of the year without tragedy.
But Lakeside High students this past week were mourning Brandon Keith Layton, killed in a crash caused by a man police say was driving drunk (http://newstimesonline.com/stories/030503/new_124-3185.shtml).
Its hard to get much worse than Laytons death. Here was a young man who obviously was destined to be a leader: he was a highly decorated member of his Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at Lakeside, had an after-school job and even played in a band.
Layton also had a lot of friends, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief over his untimely death. And once again, Columbia Countys school counselors have been summoned to a county school to console grief-stricken students.
Its so senseless. Layton was driving east on River Watch Parkway, when 57-year-old Mohammad Ali Behzadain - who was driving on the wrong side of the divided highway, nearly half a mile from an intersection - slammed his Toyota Camry head-on into Laytons Toyota MR2.
Behzadain went to the hospital for a couple of days, but was released to police custody and charged with driving under the influence, second degree vehicular homicide and driving on the wrong side of the road.
Laytons death wasnt like the crash that killed 8-year-old Andrew Hawkinberry last September; in that Interstate 20 accident, the Hawkinberrys car skidded out of control in a thunderstorm, crossed the median and hit another vehicle.
And it wasnt like the accident that claimed little 5-year-old Morgan Danielle Beverly, who was backed over in her own driveway by her fathers work truck. And it wasnt like the death of Holly Spivey, who died in a late-night house fire that killed her parents.
No, unlike those tragic deaths of promising children, Brandon Laytons death wasnt an accident - not when police say the other driver was drinking. Its too bad the courts dont treat such a death like premeditated murder - because thats what it is.
If theres any comfort to be found in Laytons death, its this: Teens may get a badly needed reminder of their mortality, and with prom season here soon, theyre witnessing a terrible lesson about the dangers of driving - especially when alcohol is involved.
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