Teen charged in crash that killed man, 20

LAWRENCEVILLE - A 15-year-old boy has been charged in a three-vehicle accident that left a 20-year-old man dead and sent four youths - including a pregnant girl - to the hospital.

Gwinnett police are trying to confirm reports that the boy, Jeffrey Kim Aviles of Norcross, was street racing about 6 p.m. Sunday when he lost control of the Toyota Celica he was driving, said Cpl. Illana Spellman, the Gwinnett County Police Department's spokeswoman.

"It's very unfortunate, of course," Spellman said of the accident, which shut down U.S. Highway 29. "As police officers, we don't want inexperienced, unlicensed drivers on our roads."

Aviles was traveling south on Lawrenceville Highway between Huston Drive and Murphy Avenue when he lost control of the car, which then entered the northbound lanes of the road, Spellman said.

The Celica struck a Honda Civic head-on, Spellman said. The driver of the Civic, a 20-year-old Lawrenceville man, died from injuries he sustained in the crash, and his two passengers were sent to a hospital with minor injuries.

None of the occupants of the Civic was wearing a seat belt, Spellman said.

The Celica also struck a Chevrolet Suburban traveling behind the Civic, but the driver, 31-year-old Angela Cheek of Lawrenceville, was not injured, Spellman said.

Police are not releasing the identity of the man who died until his family is notified, Spellman said.

His two passengers, 16-year-old Marco Torres and 18-year-old Cruz Valdez, suffered minor injuries. Both attend Central Gwinnett High School, said Jorge Quintana, the school district's spokesman.

Valdez was released from Gwinnett Medical Center on Sunday, said Kyle Brogdon, the hospital's spokesman. Because Torres is underage, Brogdon said he could not release any information about him.

The passengers in the Celica remained hospitalized Monday. A 12-year-old girl was in fair condition at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, and a 15-year-old girl was in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital, officials said.

Spellman said one of the girls is pregnant, but she did not know which one.

Both girls are enrolled in Gwinnett County Public Schools, but Quintana said he could not confirm which schools because they are minors.

Aviles was charged with operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, failure to maintain a lane and second-degree vehicular homicide, Spellman said. Because these are misdemeanor charges, Aviles was released to his mother, who will be responsible for ensuring he appears in court.

The boy is not enrolled in any of the county's schools, Quintana said.

Police are investigating reports that Aviles was racing another vehicle before the crash, Spellman said. If that is found to be true, he could face additional charges.

Bill Richardson, a retired Gwinnett County police officer who helped start a nonprofit organization that tries to reduce the number of teenagers killed in car accidents, said parents have a responsibility to do everything they can to teach their children to be safe drivers.

"It's a sad event," said Richardson, co-founder of It Won't Happen To Me. "Unfortunately, kids are going to be kids."

Ultimately, parents must make sure teens who are learning how to drive get enough time behind the wheel, Richardson said. And it's also up to the parents to make sure their child learns how to drive with a licensed driver who is at least 21 in the vehicle, he said.

In many crashes, teen drivers lose control of the vehicle and are unable to regain control, Richardson said. Advanced driving courses that teach teens maneuvers such as how to recover after running off the road can help reduce deadly accidents, he said.

There have been five people age 19 or younger who have died in traffic accidents in Gwinnett County this year, Richardson said.

In 2003, two people were killed when a teenage girl lost control of her vehicle while drag racing on Peachtree Parkway. Two women were sentenced in November to prison after admitting they were racing.