Teen driver charged in death of Midlothian High School student Wyatt Fowler

Posted at 9:10 AM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 17:13:42-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A teenage driver has been charged in a December 2023 crash that killed passenger Wyatt Fowler, according to the Chesterfield County Police Department (CCPD). The driver's name was not publicly released as she is a juvenile.

Fowler, 15, was one of the passengers in a 2016 Chevrolet Impala that was heading north on Brandermill Parkway when it left the roadway near Barnes Spring Road at 12:13 a.m. on December 30, 2023, according to police. Fowler was pronounced dead at the scene and the other people in the car suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Police said after their investigation, they sought and obtained juvenile petitions for "involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, driving after curfew, and driving with too many passengers for the then-16-year-old female driver of the vehicle."

Police did not say how fast the car was going at the time of the crash, but said speed was considered a factor in the crash and allowed for the reckless driving charge. Virginia state code states that reckless driving qualifies as 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Police said the teen driver surrendered herself to authorities and was arrested on May 7.

Police said the driver has been released from custody, but has to wear an ankle monitoring device and is not allowed to drive. Her next court hearing is May 29.

In the days following the crash, friends gathered at the crash site to remember Fowler.

"My heart goes out to [his sister] and his mom because those were probably two of the people he loved the most," Brayden Delaney, who played travel lacrosse with Fowler. said. "When you’re with him, he’s always bringing up his mom and sister. He always brings up how he loves them. Most of the stuff he does is for his mom and his sister."

"Just really hard to see a young life ended like that. Just really tragic," Michelle Barker, who lives near the crash scene, said. "[The crash victims' friends] were just praying and comforting each other [at the crash scene memoral]. It was, you know, heartbreaking. Just glad that they’re supporting each other."

Fowler played football for Midlothian High School.

"Football creates a brotherhood, a bond that’s never broken, even in a tremendous loss such as this," the Chesterfield Quarterback League posted on social media. "We stand with those mourning the passing of this incredible student-athlete, and pray for God’s peace to be with everyone who knew Wyatt and his family."

Message to Other Teen Drivers

While this case now enters the court system, police and driving safety advocates said it just shows the importance of teens and their parents knowing

"Most of these crashes are preventable," said Sgt. Kyle Easton with CCPD's Traffic Unit. "It's really easy for adults to take for granted how complex the driving task really is. And especially for somebody who's new to driving and learning how to manage a vehicle, that those added distractions really do not mix with driving."

Brad Hughes, a former Chesterfield police officer turned traffic safety advocate after he lost his legs ten years ago, added while parents have a role in educating their kids it ultimately comes down to the person behind the wheel.

"This right here brings it to fruition. It lets them understand that what we talked about is serious and what we're trying to explain to you is this: you do crimes like this, you will get punished for it. Unfortunately, this young lady, her life will never be the same again, whether it's something that she gets a long term sentence or a short term sentence," said Hughes. "When you get inside that vehicle, you are in charge of that 3,000 pound automobile, you have an incident like that and someone's life is taken away you are held responsible for it. No matter if you're 16 years old or if you're 100 years old."

Hughes gives talks to teens at schools around the area and said Fowler's case is one that has been brought up.

"The kids nowadays -- they just don't believe that it's going to happen. They really think they're invincible and they're not," added Hughes.

Easton added at the end of the day, they want all drivers following the rules of the road, but not because they are trying to avoid getting a ticket.

"But, because it's the right thing to do and it's their own welfare and the welfare of their passengers that's really important."

Among the restrictions in place for young drivers in Virginia, as stated on the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle's website are:

Curfew Restrictions
If you are under age 18, Virginia law prohibits you from driving midnight to 4 a.m. except when driving:

  • to or from a place of business where you are employed;
  • to or from an activity that is supervised by an adult and is sponsored by a school or by a civic, religious, or public organization;
  • with a licensed spouse age 18 or older, parent or other adult acting in loco parentis who is occupying the front passenger seat,
  • in case of an emergency, including responding to emergency calls as a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad personnel.

Restrictions on the Number of Passengers
If you are under age 18, you may carry only one passenger under age 21, unless accompanied by a licensed parent, or other adult acting in place of a parent, in the front passenger seat. However, after you have held your license for one year, you may carry up to three passengers under age 21 in the following situations:

  • Travel to and from a school-sponsored activity;
  • A licensed driver 21 or older is in the front passenger seat; or
  • In case of an emergency.

Learner's permit holders may not carry more than one passenger under age 18.
(Passenger restrictions do not apply to family members)

Violations of either the curfew or passenger restrictions can result in the suspension of your driver's license.

Cellular Telephone/Wireless Telecommunications Device Restrictions
Virginia's cellular telephone law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, regardless of whether such device is or is not hand-held.

You can only use a cell phone or any other telecommunications device for a driver emergency and the vehicle must be lawfully parked or stopped.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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