CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Concerns about a stretch of road in Chesterfield are being brought to the forefront after a tragic car crash that killed two teenagers this week.
According to Chesterfield Police, around 5:47 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, a BMW was driving northbound on the 3200 block of Old Gun Road West when the car entered a curve at a high speed, the driver lost control and the car ran off the road.
Police said the car traveled several hundred feet, hit a retaining wall, flipped and caught on fire. The driver and the passenger were trapped inside and died at the scene.
In an email, the principal of James River High School, Dr. Amanda Voelker, confirmed that high school students Nicholas Booth and William Hammitt were the two victims in the deadly car crash.
Bryan Hannum, the Director of Student Activities for James River High School, said the two young men were members of the lacrosse team.
“We are still trying to wrap our heads around when the lacrosse season will resume,” Hannum said.
The high school is also in the beginning stages of planning a tribute to them.
In the meantime, neighbors who live near the crash site have been expressing their thoughts about traffic concerns on Old Gun Road. Some of them witnessed the crash. Others saw the car engulfed.
Dana Smith just recently moved into the area. He was on a zoom call when he heard the crash.
“I shared a text with a lady who lives probably a couple of doors down and she texted me and said, ‘Hey, I knew this was going to happen,'” Smith said.
Neighbors have been concerned about speeding, the narrowness of the road, stretches without stop signs and the ditches for some time.
“You tend to see people swerve into different lanes as they’re going around bends. I myself, sometimes that happens because it’s a very narrow lane, especially going from here to Robious,” Smith said. “And then you couple that with the stretches of long road without stop signs or anything else. So it seems to me you have a couple, you know, terrible recipes that could lead to disaster.”
Another neighbor told 8News she has lived along the road for 30 years. The BMW Booth and Hammitt were inside landed in a ditch in her front yard. She said she was worried about kids driving too fast and hoped that people would continue to warn their children about Old Gun Road.
She also said that this was the fourth accident that resulted in death that she had seen.
One recent deadly crash on the road took place on Dec, 1, 2020 in the 2700 block of Old Gunn Road West. Around 4 p.m., Jeremy C. Dunn, 37, was driving a Dodge van and was leaving a home when he hit a mailbox, crossed the roadway and went into a ditch. His car traveled up and embankment and hit another car on private property. Dunn was taken to the hospital where he later died. Investigators determined that he suffered a medical emergency at the time of the crash.
On March 12, 2016, police said Henry P. Mauck III, 57, was driving south in the 3600 block of Old Gun Road. His car ran off the road and he hit a tree. He died at the scene of the crash.
The Old Gun Road Civic Association (OGRCA), which includes several subdivisions of hundreds of homes along Old Gun Road East and West in a four-mile stretch, has been advocating for change on the road over the last decade. They have fought for the condition of the road and several other civic issues.
“Over the years people have requested a study of widening Old Gun Road, but it cannot be,” Virginia Hickey, the Spring Creek Neighborhood Representative for the association, said. “The DMV has studied the situation and it was determined that if people would drive the speed limit there would not be these issues.”
Several years ago, the association reached out to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) about the safety concerns from homeowners on Old Gun Road. Many members tried to reduce the speed limit.
A safety and speed study was released in 2009, with four speed samples taken over a 24-hour period, and crashes gathered from November 1, 2005 to October 31, 2008 revealed 25 accidents.
According to the study, in the two speeding incidents, one driver said he was drinking the night before and lost control. The other was avoiding a deer. Fourteen crashes involved a fixed object or run-off-road incidents.
VDOT told the association the major factors in crashes were speeding, driver inattention and defective vehicles.
Jon Kucera, who has been on the OGRCA Board for about four years, told 8News that Old Gun Road East and West has different standards for control and policing, as part of it is in the City of Richmond and the other part is in Chesterfield County. Kucera said the city speed limit is 25 mph, while the county’s speed limit is 35 mph.
“Old Gun Road is an attraction to speeders and sports cars. I have a corner office in my home on Old Gun Road East, overlooking Old Gun. I constantly see speeders,” Kucera said.
According to Kucera there are two high schools in the area, which adds traffic, and Old Gun Road is also a bicycle route. All these factors can make controlling traffic an issue, but Kucera says the first step is to crack down on speeding.
“Enforcing the existing speed limits is the first step, albeit with understaffed police departments,” Kucera said. “Perhaps deploying several of the automatic speed detection signs.”
According to VDOT, routine maintenance has taken place on Old Gun Road over the last five years along with tree removal and a culvert pipe replacement project.