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A former University of Georgia staffer injured in fatal car crash files lawsuit against school athletic association and others

<i>Courtesy Ceciley Pangburn</i><br/>The January 15 crash killed the driver and a back-seat passenger
Courtesy Ceciley Pangburn
The January 15 crash killed the driver and a back-seat passenger

By Steve Almasy, Dawn Sawyer and Carrington Peavy, CNN

(CNN) — A former recruiting analyst for the University of Georgia Athletic Association who was badly injured in an auto accident in January has filed a lawsuit against the athletics association and others.

The lawsuit says Victoria Bowles “suffered multiple debilitating injuries,” including broken bones and lacerated organs in the crash, in which UGA football player Devin Willock and another recruiting analyst, Chandler LeCroy, were killed hours after the university’s football national championship celebration.

Bowles is suing the estate of LeCroy – who was driving the vehicle in which Bowles was a backseat passenger – and former UGA football player and now NFL first-round draft pick Jalen Carter and his company, Breadman Jalen LLC. Carter was driving another SUV that was also at the scene, according to authorities.

Bowles accuses the athletics association of negligence for allowing LeCroy to drive a university-leased SUV despite having received numerous speeding and “super speeder” tickets in the six years before the crash, the lawsuit alleges. One ticket was received while LeCroy was in the car with her UGA supervisor, according to the complaint.

LeCroy was assigned the vehicle before the deadly crash and used it to transport a recruit to and from championship celebration activities, including a dinner the night of the crash, according to the lawsuit.

Bowles had been assigned a different vehicle and also escorted a recruit as well as a UGA football coach to the same dinner, the lawsuit said. Following the dinner, the coach told Bowles he needed her vehicle, so she gave him the keys and asked LeCroy for a ride.

According to the complaint, Bowles and LeCroy dropped off the recruits and later went downtown to continue celebrating, where they joined football players Willock and Warren McClendon at a strip club.

Bowles decided to go with the group to the club because LeCroy was her ride and “Ms. Bowles did not want to be left downtown alone that evening,” the complaint said.

After leaving the club, the vehicle that LeCroy was driving was traveling “about 104 miles per hour” before it crashed into two power poles and several trees, a few miles south of the UGA campus, Athens-Clarke County police said.

Willock was ejected from the SUV and died at the scene, police said. LeCroy died after being taken to a hospital. McClendon was transported to the hospital for minor injuries.

Bowles was in critical condition with multiple injuries, including fractures, lacerations, and both spinal cord and head injuries that may progress to permanent paralysis, according to the lawsuit.

Bowles is seeking damages that cover more than $170,000 in medical expenses as well as lost wages and future wages lost, with the amount to be determined at a later time.

CNN has reached out to LeCroy’s estate and representatives for Carter for comment but have not received a response.

Bowles told driver to slow down, suit alleges

In her lawsuit, Bowles claims that she repeatedly told LeCroy to slow down as they approached the curve. Carter, who is now a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles, was found to be racing with LeCroy at the time, according to Athens-Clarke County police.

“The investigation found that Chandler LeCroy, driver of the 2021 Ford Expedition and Jalen Carter, driver of a 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, were operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area at about 2:30 AM” the day of the crash, police said in a news release.

“Alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash,” police said.

The lawsuit said that while traveling behind, Carter – whose drivers’ license was not valid at the time – saw LeCroy’s vehicle go off the road and strike a pole. Bowles claims that Carter is liable for “failing to exercise ordinary care and diligence and was careless and grossly negligent” by engaging in reckless driving, driving by excessive speeds, pursuing LeCroy and “driving too fast for conditions during the street race.”

In an interview with law enforcement, Carter said that “near the curve of the crash he slowed his vehicle while beside the LeCroy vehicle, and she passed him,” the lawsuit says. “He admitted he then, while traveling behind LeCroy, observed her vehicle go off the road and strike a pole, saw the pole falling, and admitted that a wire from the pole came down on his vehicle.”

The lawsuit alleges, “Defendant Carter illegally left the scene without speaking with law enforcement” even though he “was aware at the time, he was jointly responsible for the crash.”

Carter spoke to police the night of the crash, an Athens-Clarke County police spokesperson said. Carter surrendered to authorities in March after charges of racing and reckless driving were filed, and was sentenced to 12 months of probation for his role in the crash. Carter entered pleas of no contest to the charges, according to his attorney, Kim Stephens.

Athletics officials dispute claims in lawsuit

The athletics association disputes claims made in the lawsuit, saying the use of the vehicle that crashed was unauthorized, according to a statement released July 13 that referenced an earlier news release from the university.

“Based on our preliminary review, we dispute its claims and will vigorously defend the Athletic Association’s interests in court,” the statement said.

The association stands by prior statements, it said, and the lawsuit does not allege LeCroy and Bowles were “on duty or acting within the scope of their employment in the hours leading up to the accident.”

The statement added, “Under no circumstances were recruiting staff authorized to use rental cars to drive at excessive speeds while intoxicated,” and association officials have “patiently supported Ms. Bowles during her long and difficult recovery.”

In April, Carter – a standout defensive player who helped guide the Bulldogs to their second college football national championship in two years – was selected by the Eagles as the ninth-overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Willock played on the offensive line in all 15 of the team’s games in its run to this season’s title. LeCroy was a football recruiting analyst, according to her LinkedIn profile.

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