Police on Monday identified the two passengers injured in the single-vehicle car crash that killed University of Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and staff member Chandler LeCroy early Sunday, just hours after the team celebrated its national championship victory.
Shortly before 3 am Sunday, LeCroy, 24, was driving with Willock, 20, and two other passengers near the UGA campus in Athens when the vehicle went off the road, barreling into two power poles and several trees, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said in a news release.
Willock was ejected from the vehicle and died on the scene, and LeCroy died after being taken to a hospital, police said.
“None of the other passengers were ejected,” according to police Lt. Shaun Barnett.
Willock, a redshirt sophomore from New Milford, New Jersey, joined the team as a freshman in 2020 and played on the offensive line in all 15 of the team’s games this past season. LeCroy was a football recruiting analyst for UGA, according to her LinkedIn.
The two injured passengers in the crash were identified as Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon, 21, who received minor injuries, and Victoria Bowles, 26, who had serious injuries, according to police.
McClendon started at right tackle for Georgia this season and declared for the NFL draft earlier Saturday. His father, Warren McClendon Sr., told the Athens Banner-Herald he needed stitches on his forehead but is “doing well.”
The crash came hours after Sanford Stadium and the surrounding streets were brimming with ecstatic fans who had come to celebrate the Bulldogs’ second straight national championship. But by the next morning, they had joined the team in mourning the sudden loss of Willock and LeCroy.
Willock’s aunt and uncle, Cicely and Normal Stout, said their nephew was well liked and doing well in school.
“He was doing very well. He was very loved by all his peers and all the teachers and all the coaches,” Cicely Stout said. “Devin is always smiling, no matter what. Devin has a smile on his face and he was doing very well in academics. He was doing very good. He was good, very good student, very good person.”
It’s an unfortunately familiar tragedy for the family. Willock’s older brother, Jonathan Wheatley, died in 2009 at the age of 20 from injuries sustained in a similar car crash, Cicely Stout said.
“He’s gone way, way too soon for us,” Willock’s uncle said.
The crash occurred just beyond a curved section of Barnett Shoals Road, where the speed limit is 40 mph. There is no barrier on the outer edge of the road.
The car went off road and snapped two power poles, continued downhill over a knoll and hit several trees and branches before coming to rest at the edge of the apartment complex.
Photos of the crash site taken by nearby residents show a wooden power pole snapped in half and the car’s frame crumpled against an apartment building in Shoals Creek, about two miles from UGA’s campus.
“That car dented like a tin can,” Cecily Pangburn, a resident of the apartment complex told CNN. She described hearing a loud bang when the crash happened, followed by her power going out.
Another resident, Jonathan D’Souza, said he was the first person to respond to the scene of the crash. He told CNN he was watching television when he felt the ground shake and heard what sounded like gunshots outside his apartment.
When D’Souza went outside to see what happened, he said it was pitch black because the power had gone out. It wasn’t until he saw sparks flying from dangling power lines in the middle of the street that he was able to see a mangled car smashed into his neighbor’s house, he said.
D’Souza said he ran toward the car and saw Willock lying face down next to the vehicle. D’Souza said he started screaming at an unresponsive Willock asking if he was okay.
“It was the most helpless feeling because you wish you could save him, but you know he’s already gone,” D’Souza said.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said. Investigators have asked anyone with information to contact authorities.
The two UGA team members were remembered by several university leaders as vibrant and valued presences in the football program.
“Devin was an outstanding young man in every way. He was always smiling, was a great teammate and a joy to coach,” head football coach Kirby Smart said in a statement Sunday. “Chandler was a valuable member of our football staff and brought an incredible attitude and energy every single day.”
“These two special people meant the world to our football program and athletic department,” UGA athletics director Josh Brooks said in a statement. “We are working with our medical staff and mental health and performance team to ensure our staff and student-athletes have all the support they need during this extremely difficult time.”
Willock spent Saturday with fans, soaking in the joy of last week’s championship win. One fan in particular got some quality time with Willock in the hours before his death.
Willock met starstruck 7-year-old Camdyn Gonzales after the young fan spotted Willock as he was leaving the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Athens on Saturday.
The player gave Camdyn a fist bump and let the boy try on his enormous 2021 championship ring.
“He was humble and very appreciative that we knew who he was and wanted to talk to him,” Camdyn’s grandfather, Sam Kramer, said, adding that Willock seemed “so full of life and just happy.”
Daniel Dewitt, a local UGA fan, attended Saturday’s victory parade and told CNN that Willock was “upbeat and happy” as the team passed throngs of supporters draped in red and black.
“It’s just heartbreaking coming off a celebratory week. And the parade yesterday, getting to see this player and then come to find out he lost his life early this morning, the entire Bulldog nation is at a loss,” Dewitt said.
Dewitt told CNN he has a 2021 UGA championship tattoo and plans to get a matching one for this season’s victory. This time, he said, it will feature Willock’s number, 77.