Flowers, a statue of an angel and a Junior Deputy Sheriff badge issued to Explorer Scouts who work with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office have been left by family and friends at the accident site.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
William Ryan Howell wanted nothing more than to become a police officer. On Sunday night, police officers worked the scene of a car crash that took the teen's life.
"He just wanted to be a deputy. That was his dream," said Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jim March, adding that Ryan, as he was known by most people, was a very active member of the sheriff's office Explorer Program, which introduces high school students to the basic fundamentals of law enforcement.
Three days after the crash, the 17-year-old's father, Jeff Howell, said community support has helped his family cope with the loss.
"The family really appreciates everything that everybody in the community - neighbors, friends, co-workers, the school, especially the school, and the Columbia County sheriff's department - has done for us," he said. "It's beyond imagination. They have really gone out of their way."
The crash increased the total of Columbia County teens killed in car accidents to 10 in less than two years.
Ryan was a junior at Greenbrier High School. His death was an all too familiar circumstance for his classmates. Yet again, they had lost one of their peers to a deadly crash.
The wreck occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of Lakeside High School senior Brandon Layton's death, the first in a string of car-related fatalities of Columbia County teens. Since then, Ryan is the fourth Greenbrier High student to die in a vehicle wreck.
"If these came in a succession of a week at a time, it wouldn't get any easier," Greenbrier High Assistant Principal Marjorie Hamilton said.
Ryan, who lived on William Few Parkway in Evans, was driving home from his job at the Bojangles restaurant on the corner of William Few and Washington Road at about 10:45 p.m. on Feb. 27 when he lost control of his Chevrolet Camaro, Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris said.
William Howell, 17, a Greenbrier High School student, died in a car crash Feb. 27.
Police said the teen lost control of the car after negotiating a southbound curve roughly a half-mile south of Windmill Parkway.
The car slid across the northbound lane and up an embankment before the driver's side of the car slammed into a utility pole, Morris said.
Columbia County Deputy Coroner Vernon Collins pronounced Ryan dead at the scene from blunt-force trauma.
Collins said several factors, such as darkness, rain, driving too fast for slippery road conditions and Ryan's inexperience in driving might have contributed to the crash.
March oversees the sheriff's office Explorer Post 63 program and remembers Ryan as a zealous young man. Ryan joined Post 63 in the ninth grade, as soon as he was old enough.
"He was real close with a lot of people on the road patrol," March said, adding that Ryan often rode along with them, brought the officers food and talked to them when they were out in the community.
"He was very enthusiastic."
Howell said his son's congenial attitude made him well-suited for a career in law enforcement.
"He was a very good kid. Well-mannered. Well-behaved. Always showing an outpouring of affection," Howell said. "He was always very helpful to everybody.
"He was always very friendly with police officers," Howell continued. "I guess he always wanted to do something more with the public because he was so outgoing."
Ryan is also survived by his mother, Kim, and his 14-year-old brother, Tyler.
Ten Columbia county teens have died in vehicle crashes in two years
• Brandon Layton, 18, Lakeside High School, Feb. 28, 2003
• Shane Williams, 17, Greenbrier High School, April 15, 2003
• Daniel Hall, 17, Greenbrier High School, April 15, 2003
• Brad Thornton, 17, Evans High School, June 7, 2003
• Keith Kroggman, 16, Evans High School, June 7, 2003
• Aleisha N. Lee, 19, Harlem High School, Aug. 18, 2003
• Alex Lee Inglett, 17, Harlem High School, Aug. 19, 2003
• Sarah Christen Renfro, 16, Augusta Christian Schools, Jan. 20, 2004
• Lea Christine Turner, 17, Greenbrier High School, Aug. 10, 2004
• William Ryan Howell, 17, Greenbrier High School, Feb. 27, 2005
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