UGA football staffer files suit over fatal crash

Lawsuit claims athletic association made false statements regarding rental vehicle use
A surveillance camera in downtown Athens captured footage of a rented SUV driven by Chandler LeCroy, a recruiting analyst for the University of Georgia's football team, moments before a fatal crash on Jan. 15. A newly filed lawsuit disputes the university's public statements on events leading to the crash, which killed LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock.

A surveillance camera in downtown Athens captured footage of a rented SUV driven by Chandler LeCroy, a recruiting analyst for the University of Georgia's football team, moments before a fatal crash on Jan. 15. A newly filed lawsuit disputes the university's public statements on events leading to the crash, which killed LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock.

A survivor of a fatal car crash that stunned the University of Georgia football program has filed a lawsuit that blames the accident in part on negligence by the university’s athletic association.

The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday by Victoria S. Bowles, a recruiting analyst for the football team, also says athletic association officials made false public statements about events that preceded the Jan. 15 crash.

In addition to the athletic association, Bowles, who goes by Tory, is suing the estate of Chandler LeCroy, a recruiting analyst who died in the crash, and former Georgia football player Jalen Carter. Police say Carter and LeCroy raced at speeds exceeding 100 mph moments before the crash, which also killed football player Devin Willock. Bowles and Willock were both back-seat passengers. A front-seat passenger, football player Warren McClendon, received minor injuries.

The lawsuit contradicts assertions by the UGA Athletic Association that on the night of the crash LeCroy had not been authorized to drive an SUV rented by the university to transport recruits and their families around Athens during a weekend in which the football program celebrated its second consecutive national championship.

LeCroy and other recruiting analysts were “commonly instructed they could take their assigned rental SUVs home overnight and leave their personal vehicles parked at the UGA Athletic Association facilities on campus,” according to the lawsuit.

“At the time of the crash,” the lawsuit also says, “LeCroy was operating the subject rental SUV with the permission of the UGA Athletic Association.”

In a statement Thursday, the athletic association said that “while we have patiently supported Ms. Bowles during her long and difficult recovery, we will strongly defend our position in this lawsuit.”

“The complaint does not allege that Ms. LeCroy and Ms. Bowles were on duty or acting within the scope of their employment in the hours leading up to the accident,” the athletic association also said.

“Recruiting vehicles were to be used during recruiting activities only, personal use of the vehicles was prohibited, and recruiting staff therefore were not authorized to use the rental vehicle for their purely personal activities on the night of the accident or any other time,” the statement added.

A lawyer for Carter did not immediately respond to Bowles’ lawsuit. The administrator of LeCroy’s estate declined to comment.

Shortly after the crash, the athletic association issued a statement that said staff members had permission to drive the rented SUVs during “recruiting activities only.” The school rents a fleet of large SUVs several times a year when recruits and their families visit the Georgia campus.

“Policies and expectations that were well understood by athletics staff dictated that such rental vehicles were to be turned in at the immediate conclusion of recruiting duties,” the athletic association said in January. “Personal use was strictly prohibited. Therefore, the continued use of the leased car by our staff members after their recruiting duties ended earlier that evening was unauthorized.”

Officials including Kirby Smart, Georgia’s head football coach, have since amplified the statement. “It should have been understood,” Smart said in March, “that you cannot take a vehicle when you’re not doing your duties, and they were not participating in their duties at that time.”

But Bowles’ civil complaint, filed late Wednesday in Gwinnett County State Court by her lawyers, Rob Buck and Phil Boston, includes screenshots of text messages in which athletic association officials gave Bowles and others permission to keep the rented vehicles even after their assigned duties concluded.

In December 2019, for instance, Logen Reed, an associate director of recruiting operations, told Bowles in a text message that “you can take your car home if you need to.”

“Wait,” Bowles responded, “just making sure you mean I can take the SUV with me.”

“Yes!” Reed replied. “Take it home.”

The lawsuit asserts the fatal crash would not have occurred if the athletic association had not overlooked what the lawsuit called LeCroy’s “deplorable driving history and habitual operation of motor vehicles at high and unsafe speeds.”

Reed, LeCroy’s supervisor, was a passenger when LeCroy received a ticket for driving 77 mph in a 55-mph zone last October, the lawsuit says. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported that the citation was LeCroy’s fourth in six years and the second that earned enhanced penalties under the state’s “super speeder” law.

In addition, Bryant Gantt, the football team’s director of player support, asked a court clerk to reduce the speed on the ticket so LeCroy could avoid the super speeder penalties, the Journal-Constitution reported. The clerk declined.

Gantt’s intervention “gave LeCroy an understanding that the association would continue to intervene on her behalf in relation to future speeding violations, thus encouraging and facilitating her high-speed driving and reckless conduct,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also seeks damages from Carter, the former Georgia defensive star who was recently drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Bowles’ lawsuit alleges Carter illegally left the scene without rendering aid to those injured in the crash. The Journal-Constitution reported in March that Carter was present at the time of the crash and returned later at the request of police officers.

Carter in March pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and street racing. He paid a $1,013 fine and is serving 12 months of probation, among other penalties.

Victoria Bowles, a former recruiting analyst for the University of Georgia football team, has filed a lawsuit over a Jan. 15, 2023, car crash in which she sustained permanent injuries. Another recruiting analyst, Chandler LeCroy, and football player Devin Willock died in the crash. CONTRIBUTED


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Carter “was jointly responsible for the crash and had a legal duty to remain on the scene,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, in part obviously fearful of bad publicity and the effect on his NFL draft status, he hoped not to be questioned or take any responsibility for his actions.”

Bowles’ is the second lawsuit stemming from the fatal crash. Willock’s father is seeking $40 million in damages from the university, the athletic association and other defendants, including Carter.

Bowles seeks reimbursement for more than $170,000 in medical bills and unspecified amounts for future expenses, wage loss and mental and physical pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit contains a lengthy list of injuries that Bowles sustained in the crash: broken vertebrae and ribs, a fractured clavicle, and broken and cracked teeth; lacerations to her kidney and liver; a punctured and collapsed lung; abdominal bleeding; neurological damage from a head injury that causes severe eye pain; and a spinal-cord injury that could progress to permanent paralysis.

In a statement, Buck, Bowles’ lawyer, said his client is “disappointed that the (athletic) association and its insurers have forced her to resort to litigation to address her life-altering injuries.”

“Tory is deeply saddened by the loss of Devin and Chandler,” Buck’s statement also said. “She greatly appreciates the continued prayers, love and support she is receiving during her difficult recovery.”

This story has been corrected to reflect that Victoria Bowles was a UGA football employee at the time she filed a lawsuit against the university’s athletic association in July. An earlier version of this story misstated her employment status.



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