Ties of friendship took teens to tragedy

June 08, 1993|By Darren M. Allen and Frank Langfitt | Darren M. Allen and Frank Langfitt,Staff Writers Staff writers Anne Haddad, Traci Johnson and Bill Talbott contributed to this article.

They were bound together as cousins and friends, kids with ties back to day care, a brother and sister -- and all of them teen-agers, packed in a stolen Toyota on a high-speed ride that ended in unbelievable horror near Eldersburg.

Yesterday, there was grieving for the girl and two boys who died Sunday morning at age 15.

And there was concern for two teen-agers still hospitalized and the three others detained on juvenile charges including car theft, drunken and reckless driving and speeding.

An unlicensed 16-year-old boy from Mount Airy was the driver -- and brother to one of the dead, Donna M. Simms, with whom he attended South Carroll High School, according to state police records obtained by The Sun.

The youth was charged as a juvenile with three counts of homicide by automobile while intoxicated and seven related counts.

He was in the custody of the state Department of Juvenile Services yesterday.

A ruling by Carroll County Juvenile Master Peter M. Tabatsko yesterday will keep the driver and others charged in the accident -- Gaithersburg youths, ages 16 and 17 -- under "some form of detention," said Erin Danz, an assistant state's attorney for Carroll County.

Ms. Danz and Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said they will seek to transfer the driver's case to Circuit Court, for trial as an adult. That process could take up to two months, Mr. Hickman said.

The Sun is withholding the names of the three youths charged in the accident because their cases are pending in the juvenile system.

Ms. Danz, who prosecutes juveniles, would not say what type of detention was imposed on the three youths: "They're certainly not free to come and go as they please."

The prosecutors said they have not decided whether to seek transfers of the cases against the Gaithersburg youths, each of whom has been charged as a juvenile with auto theft and possession of alcohol.

Police say the 16-year-old Mount Airy boy was driving a stolen 1991 Toyota Corolla east on Liberty Road at 1:47 a.m. Sunday at speeds up to 110 mph when he lost control near Liberty Reservoir.

Killed in the crash along with the youth's sister, Donna M. Simms, were Dink Diggs, also a freshman at South Carroll, and Christopher Norris of Marriottsville, a freshman at Howard County's Glenelg High.

Six of the eight occupants were thrown from the car as it spun out of control, slid backward into a guardrail, flipped and landed on its roof near the Carroll-Baltimore County line.

All three youths charged in the accident were treated at hospitals in Carroll and Baltimore counties. Two 15-year-old sisters were injured seriously in the accident. Melissa D. and Angela N. Costley of Gaithersburg were listed in fair condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

In Western Howard County, friends and relatives recalled Christopher Norris as a kind, helpful boy, who mowed an elderly neighbor's grass and shoveled snow for free.

"You couldn't find a better boy than Chris," said his maternal grandmother, Mary-Louise Spencer.

Ms. Spencer said Christopher was a common thread between many of the teen-agers who were in the car.

She said his mother and stepfather live in rural Howard County, but he spent weekends with his grandparents in Mount Airy. Dink Diggs was his neighbor there. The Costley sisters are Christopher's cousins. The youth who was driving the car, and his sister who died, had attended Warren United Methodist Church in Mount Airy with Christopher.

Dink's mother, Patsy Stallings Diggs, said Christopher was a constant presence in her home.

"Chris and Dink grew up together, they went to day care together, they shopped together and, of course, you know, they died together," she said. "You couldn't ask for a better kid for your kid to be friends with.

"I have no idea how they got [alcohol], but believe me, I will find out."

Students and staff at South Carroll High School seemed subdued and in shock yesterday.

"It was very quiet," said Stacy Livesay, a junior who lives in Sykesville. "One day you see somebody at school and the next day they're gone."

Throughout the day, dozens of the teen-agers' friends sought help to cope with their grief and confusion from a team of crisis counselors, psychologists and pupil workers who were brought to the school.

Robert Thacker, a pupil worker, said about 80 students talked with the counselors: "Often, they wanted to talk about their friends that were involved."

The crash is the latest of four incidents -- including a rape while classes were in session, a student prank that poisoned a teacher, and a racial brawl that involved a South Carroll student -- that have put the school in the news since March.

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