BREAKING: Remains identified as missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham

UPDATE: Mechanicsville teen dies after car strikes trees, fence

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) — Investigators are working to find out what caused a 19-year-old driver to run off a rural road early just before 7:45 a.m. Friday in Hanover County.

“I didn’t know what in the world has happened.  It’s a fairly rural area,” said a neighbor who wished to remain anonymous.

The woman lives nearby and spotted the accident scene on her way to work.

“You couldn’t see anyone from the front of the car.  It looked like maybe she was slouched down in the seat.  It didn’t look good.  The driver’s side was very damaged,” said an unidentified neighbor.

“Preliminary investigation indicates that a 1995 Honda Accord was traveling west on Piping Tree Ferry Road near Old Church Road when it ran off the right side of the roadway,” Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Chris Whitley said in an email. “This caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, which struck several trees and a wooden fence before coming to rest.”

The driver, identified as 19-year-old Joelle Y. Howard, of Mechanicsville, died as a result of the crash.

Howard was flown to VCU Medical Center by Virginia State Police Med-Flight and later pronounced dead. Deputies said she was not wearing a seat belt.

“You do have to be careful when you’re passing each other because there’s not a lot of space,” the neighbor said.

CBS 6 spoke with the Howard’s family who were too distraught to talk on camera, but said the victim was on her way home before she somehow crashed her car.

The community is trying to understand why a young life was cut so short.

“It’s horrible,” said the neighbor.  “I think everyone that’s heard about it…you know…in the community their heart goes out to the family.”

The investigation into the crash remains ongoing.

6 comments

  • dave

    wtvr spoke with neighbor,why?Like vultures knocking on doors to get a story.You had your story,a teen died.But that was not enough was it?Wish it would snow again so wtvr 6 would have something to do.

    • Liz

      I agree Dave. WTVR has really been sinking to new lows for reporting the news (and I use that term loosely). I really don’t give a flying flip about what neighbors, passersby, or generally other people in the street think….and leave grieving families alone….period…end of story.

  • Angie

    I’m not sure the negative responses from Liz and Dave are warranted. Is it not alright for the community to feel emotional about the loss of a young woman. Death does not just effect family and friends but also the community. And although it’s a really sad and unfortunate situation, maybe it will prompt someone to drive more carefully. I believe it takes so much effort to write negative comments, when you have so many other news resources out there to visit if this one does not provide the information your interested in. I’m apart of that same community and I really send my prayers for Joelle’s family and friends during this tough time.

    • Liz

      Angie, it is certainly OK to feel emotional and to want to give support to this family. It’s the tabloid feel to this story. Interestingly enough, after mine and Dave’s comments, the title of the story was changed. Yesterday it was touting that WTVR had spoken with a neighbor or tried to speak with family – something along those lines. It does take effort to write negative comments but it also takes effort to write a respectful news story and give that same respect to a family that is grieving. I also do not feel that my or Dave’s comments were negative – just our views on what we felt was an inappropriate story. I have seen an increase in this sort of thing the past couple of weeks on this particular news site so I will continue to call them out for it.

  • joshua

    Three cars run off the right side of the road with tragic results over the weekend. Why did they all run off the right side, were they forced off the road by some crazy motorist out there or were they simply distracted bypossibly a text message? Were there any close calls that weren’t reported? Just curious. My thoughts and prayers are with all the families

    • Gerry

      DO a survey as to how many people are texting while driving or as soon as they arrive to a stoplight.

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