ATHENS — The father of the University of Georgia football player killed in a car accident early Sunday said he has no plans to sue the university.
Devin Willock’s father, Dave Willock, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that he is focusing only on his deceased son, who was 20, as the family plans a funeral in Athens for Saturday. He said he does not plan any legal action, at least not at this time.
“No, Georgia is working with us,” Willock said. “We have no reason to do that because they are compensating us 100%.”
It was unclear exactly what Willock meant by his statement, which came amid a day swirling with confusion about the family’s plans after a law firm announced Wednesday that it was representing the family and had planned to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon in Athens to discuss legal action.
Those plans seemed to have come apart as attorney Roy Willey, who said he was the family’s attorney, appeared without the family in front of the Athens courthouse to thank University of Georgia staff, the Georgia football program, law enforcement and Devin Willock’s girlfriend and provide a statement on behalf of the family.
Willey said that he and the Willock family met with the Athens-Clarke Police Department and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning to review their progress and receive an update on the investigation. He asked that people with “pertinent” information reach out to investigative authorities or his law firm, Go Big Injury Lawyers, adding that they will release information as it is “verified, available and appropriate.”
“We are here today to ask that you please let these two families continue to grieve and grieve in peace,” Willey said.
Devin Willock’s mother, Sharlene Willock, told 11Alive on Thursday that she retained an attorney but is not planning any legal action at this point.
Meanwhile, the university was saying little about the early morning accident, in which a UGA athletics department recruiting analyst, Chandler LeCroy, was driving the vehicle at 2:45 a.m. Sunday when it went off the road and struck a series of utility poles and trees. LeCroy, 24, was also killed in the accident.
Devin Willock, of New Milford, New Jersey, was a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman for the Bulldogs. He was riding in the back seat of the rented 2021 Ford Expedition. Teammate Warren McClendon and another member of the Georgia football recruiting department also were in the vehicle. The family is in Gainesville as it gets ready for the funeral.
Tory Bowles, a back-seat passenger who also works in recruiting, is still being treated for “serious injuries,” according to police. McClendon suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital on Sunday.
HOW THE ATHENS CRASH UNFOLDED
According to the preliminary crash report, the Ford Expedition driven by Chandler Louise LeCroy was driving southbound on Barnett Shoals Road in the early hours of Sunday when it failed to curve left with the road and jumped the curb. 1
The vehicle's front passenger side then struck two utility poles 2, cutting them in half. The vehicle struck one tree 3 with its back passenger side, which sent it rotating clockwise before it hit another tree with its front driver's side.
The force of those strikes sent the vehicle rotating in counter-clockwise rotation before it struck a parked vehicle and the front door of a corner apartment unit. 4
This graphic has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly charted the vehicle’s path and resting place.
NOTE: Locations are approximate. Police diagram is not to scale.
SOURCE: Crash report, Google Earth
CREDIT: Pete Corson, ArLuther Lee and Charles Minshew / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The AJC sent a list of questions about the accident to Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks on Wednesday. UGA replied with the following statement:
“Our primary focus remains on providing comfort and support to the families and friends of Devin, Chandler, and the two others who were injured, as well as everyone impacted by this tragedy. Out of respect for the individuals and their families, we will not comment further at this time on the accident or the ongoing investigation.”
The car LeCroy was driving was rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car for the purpose of transporting recruits around campus, according to a person with knowledge of Georgia recruiting. It remains unknown whether LeCroy was authorized to drive the vehicle at that time of night or if the trip they were making was approved by anyone at UGA.
“I’m focusing on my son, focusing on my heart,” Dave Willock said. “We’re planning (Devin’s) send-off and everything. I’m doing all of that. That’s what I’m dealing with. I’m not dealing with any of that.”
The confusion over any potential legal action by the family started late Wednesday afternoon, when Willey’s firm said the family of Devin Willock would be at a 2 p.m. press conference Thursday to discuss the accident and legal actions to be taken. When reached by the AJC about the apparent discrepancy of the family’s attendance, Brian Stellwag, who handles media relations for the firm, said the Willock family’s attorney would appear at a press conference, which had been pushed back an hour. When Willey finally appeared, he declined to take any questions following his statements and he did not discuss taking any legal action.
Asked Thursday morning about the press conference, Dave Willock said he had no plan to attend.
“I’m here; my son passed away; I’m emotional, dealing with hurt,” he said. “I don’t know about that. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet.”
For the Willocks, the accident was a horrific repeat of what happened to another son 13 years ago. Jonathan Wheatley, Devin’s half-brother, was a passenger in a car returning to New Jersey after a night out in New York City with three friends on Sept. 5, 2009, according to a story written by NorthJersey.com. The car they were riding in was struck by another vehicle. Wheatley was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. He was also 20 years old.
Police said Devin Willock died at the scene Sunday after being ejected from the vehicle.
“Same way, same way, everything the same,” said the 58-year-old Dave Willock, who immigrated to the U.S. from Antigua 39 years ago. “Wee hours in the morning, accident, four people in the car, female driver, everything the same except for the kind of car. Same age, everything. They looked just alike, he played football, too. Everything.”
Neighbors interviewed in the townhome community off Barnett Shoals Road in Athens told the AJC they heard a loud crash and a flash of light as the utility poles sputtered and sparked. Shortly after that, they said they heard somebody screaming to call 911.
“I heard screeching, and the walls and ceilings shook,” said Jordan Williams, who said he saw the scene from his window. “I honestly thought it was a tornado at first.”
Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson said routine toxicology testing was done on LeCroy. This is protocol when a driver is killed in a crash, Wilson said. Those toxicology findings are expected to take several weeks to be completed.
Autopsies were not conducted on Willock nor LeCroy, Wilson said.
Asked how they are processing the tragedies, Dave Willock said: “It’s hard, you know. I cry a lot. It makes me think, ‘Why? Why does this happen?’ I just don’t know. You just take it one day at a time and it starts to fade.”
The Willocks have one other child. David Jr. is 23.
Dave Willock said a funeral will be held for his son at the University of Georgia Chapel on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. An official announcement has not been made.
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