Recent Evans graduate killed in wreck


An Evans teen who graduated from high school Saturday was killed Thursday in a single-vehicle wreck.


Taylor Hammond Gazaway, 17, of Blanchard Road, an Evans High School graduate, was a backseat passenger in a Mercury Mountaineer driven by 16-year-old Amber Rose Lever, of Lake Royal Drive in Grovetown, police said.

Columbia County Deputy Bobby Bradford said Lever turned off South Old Belair Road onto Belair Lane, veered into a trash can at the end of a driveway near Lake Royal Drive, lost control of the sport utility vehicle and hit a tree.

Gazaway, who had to be extricated from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics, Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison said. He died of "multiple trauma," she said, but an autopsy still will be performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Augusta. Garrison said alcohol was not a factor.

Another backseat passenger -- McKenzie Lauren Jones, 15, of Knollcrest Circle North in Martinez -- was taken to the hospital. Garrison said her injuries were not life-threatening.

Lever and the other three passengers -- Chase Ryan Dukes, 16, of Harlem-Grovetown Road, and Cody Allen Wiggins, 17, of Peachtree Street, both of Harlem; and Elaina Liann Leonard, 19, of Day Road in Martinez -- were either not injured or sustained minor injuries, authorities said.

Gazaway and Dukes were not wearing seat belts, Morris said this morning. All other occupants of the vehicle were, he said. Initial reports attributed to the deputy coroner, indicated none of those in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts.

While charges are pending against Lever, authorities don't expect to charge her today, said Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.

Morris confirmed that Lever has had her driver's license for more than six months. According to state law, she was allowed to carry just one non-family passenger.