Their vehicles collided head-on early Saturday in a fiery crash on a stretch of highway south of Crofton in Anne Arundel County, ending the lives of all four and leaving grieving families and a stunned school system.
Maryland State Police said the car with the teens, with 19-year-old nursing student Brittany Ann Walker behind the wheel, was traveling the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of U.S. 50 when her vehicle slammed into the BMW driven by Terry Davis of Severna Park.
"It doesn't make any sense," Eduardo Lara, 54, Davis' domestic partner of 31 years, said through tears. "How does this happen? I feel bad for their parents, but my God, what were these kids thinking?"
Investigators said Sunday that they had not yet determined why the car full of teens was on the wrong side of a divided highway that links Washington to Annapolis. Authorities said several motorists had dialed 911 in the minutes before the crash at 3:30 a.m., saying they saw a car speeding south in the northbound lanes of I-97, and then in the eastbound lanes of U.S. 50 heading west.
State police said Sunday that the driver either crossed a median and turned around on the highway or took an exit ramp the wrong way. The ramp at the merge for I-97, called a "sky ramp," is several hundred yards long and loops over the highway.
The accident occurred east of Davidsonville Road. If the Chrysler did get in the wrong lanes at the I-97 interchange, the car would have traveled nearly five miles toward oncoming traffic on U.S. 50 before hitting the BMW.
A statement from police said they were not sure whether alcohol or high speed contributed to the crash. A duty sergeant at the Glen Burnie barracks said a small amount of marijuana was found in the Chrysler, but toxicology tests on the drivers and occupants were not completed on Sunday.
The collision caused one car to burst into flames, and firefighters had to extinguish the blaze before cutting apart the mangled vehicles to extricate the victims, a process that took hours. All three teens died at the scene. Davis, who grew up in Laurel, was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Also killed in the Chrysler were passengers Breanna Marie Franco and Zachary Tyler Rose, both 18. A spokesman for the Anne Arundel County school system said Walker had graduated from Meade Senior High School in 2010 and Rose had graduated from the same school in 2011. He said Franco had graduated from Severna Park High School in 2011.
Brittany Walker's legal guardian, her 73-year-old grandfather, Norman Walker, said she had left Friday night to attend a birthday party and was dropping friends off at their houses before coming home. He didn't know Rose, but he described Franco as one of his granddaughter's best friends. He also said he didn't know exactly where his granddaughter had gone or whom the party was for.
Norman Walker said his granddaughter — who played on the varsity lacrosse and soccer teams in high school — worked full time at Flippin' Pizza at Arundel Mills, just outside the mall, and attended classes at Anne Arundel Community College.
The elder Walker said Brittany had wanted to become a nurse. Since she was a toddler she suffered from ulcerative colitis, he said, which left her in constant pain without medication and required the removal of her colon when she was 12 years old.
"As a result, she knew nurses really well," Norman Walker said. The retired Air Force captain said he had regularly taken Brittany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda. "She was a trouper," Walker said. "She endured her disease."
In October, a Maryland State Police officer pulled Brittany over on Interstate 70 near Hagerstown after clocking her going 91 mph in a 65-mph zone. She pleaded guilty and paid a $290 fine, according to electronic court records.
That time, Walker said, Brittany had been driving to visit a friend in West Virginia. He said he had lectured her after the incident. "I told her to slow down," he said.
Lara said Davis grew up in Laurel and attended Laurel High School. Davis started working at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport, Lara said, moving up over 16 years to become a gate manager for US Airways and later for Piedmont Airlines. The couple met at the airport while working similar jobs.
Davis, like Brittany Walker, also had a rough time growing up. After his father died, Davis was left to help his mother raise his three younger brothers.
"He didn't have much of a childhood," Lara said. "He was the man of the family at a very early age. He didn't have much school, but he got the best jobs because he was such a smart guy."
After working for the airlines, Davis took other mid-level management jobs, most recently as a warehouse manager. On Friday night, Davis went to visit friends in Old Town Alexandria, a Virginia suburb of Washington. Lara said he couldn't attend because he had to work the next day.
"We were going to meet up Saturday night and have our normal weekend," said Lara, who came to the United States from Cuba.
Lara now owns a barbershop in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. The commute from Severna Park was strenuous, so he recently began living in Washington three days a week.
"Terry didn't want me driving those roads because there was too much exposure to traffic," Lara said.
Lara paused. "And it's him who is dead," he said.