Recent Evans graduate killed in wreck

Jim Blaylock/Staff
Columbia County investigators examine the scene of a one-vehicle wreck on Belair Lane at Lake Royal Drive. The driver, 16-year-old Amber Rose Lever, lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a tree. Taylor Gazaway, 17, was killed and at least one other passenger was injured in the crash.
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An Evans teen who graduated from high school Saturday was killed Thursday in a single-vehicle wreck.

Gazaway   Special
Special
Gazaway

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.

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MJ-12
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MJ-12 05/26/11 - 06:03 pm
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Kids always have to learn the

Kids always have to learn the hard way that they aren't invincible. RIP and my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Gazaway :(

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 05/26/11 - 06:15 pm
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Just read this to my

Just read this to my daughter. She knew 2, possibly 3 of the kids. Very hard lesson for her to learn, especially when it involves kids that she knows. I want so much for her to learn from this terrible tragedy. Can you imagine...no, I can't...how that boy's parents/family must feel right now? Graduating just days ago...a whole new life ahead of him, and then to have it taken away so quickly, so easily. My sincerest prayers go to all those involved in this accident! If you have kids, please have them read this article and realize how fleeting this life can be.

storiesihaveread
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storiesihaveread 05/26/11 - 06:18 pm
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That is a call I never want

That is a call I never want to get. Prayers to all the familes!

jamie8706
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jamie8706 05/26/11 - 06:22 pm
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This is so sad..my prayers go

This is so sad..my prayers go out to the family right now...Can u imagine getting a phone call like that and you just seen your child walk across the stage, that is desvasting.

stephanie1111111
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stephanie1111111 05/26/11 - 07:03 pm
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i just would like to make a

i just would like to make a comment i was in a car wreck friday the 13 of this month and we were all serious injured but we were drinking. and we all came out alive.And it just breaks me to hear that teens & proud parents that dont even compare to the lifestyle me and my friends live have to loose somebody that just walked off stage graduation. and for me to say im a dropout not to much going for me and i would rather have died in my wreck then this boy in his.. prayers out to yall.. It might change my life

Just4Him
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Just4Him 05/26/11 - 07:37 pm
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Stephanie No words can

Stephanie No words can describe what I felt when I read your comment. I know the Lord is working on your heart for you to have posted that message. Sometimes it takes a hard lesson for us to learn and my prayer is that you have learned and that you know you can turn your life around it is not too late no matter how you've been in the past or even right now. God can take tragedies and work them for good and this would be some of the good that can come out of Taylor's tragedy. The bible says that all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose, He is calling you and you could have a great impact on those around you. Seek Him and search for Him He is there. Taylor is gone home and maybe just maybe it was for you to seek god and turn your life around.

Doyougetitnow
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Doyougetitnow 05/26/11 - 08:01 pm
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Am praying for the families

Am praying for the families of all the youth involved in this accident. I can't imagine the fear in the hearts of these parents that were not killed and the sadness that will last a lifetime for all of them. God Bless our children and keep them safe.

tanbaby
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tanbaby 05/26/11 - 08:05 pm
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such a tragedy....just
Unpublished

such a tragedy....just reinforces that most 16 yr olds have NO business driving.....they do think they are invincible..my nephews were friends with the boy that died....

SFC_link
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SFC_link 05/26/11 - 08:13 pm
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Thoughts and prayers go to

Thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends. RIP. When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 05/26/11 - 08:37 pm
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walrus, I'm sure at this time

walrus, I'm sure at this time and possibly for a long while the parents can't possibly see anything good in this accident that has taken their child's life. That being said....God Almighty can take this tragedy and bring good out of it. If this lesson saves another child's life or saves many children's life then I would say some good came out of it.

Just speculating but what if say six months from now Taylor would have been in an accident that left him a vegetable or if this accident had happened six months from now and all the occupants would have been killed.....sometimes God's mercy is never seen because we don't know what the future holds we just have to trust that if Taylor was a child of God that he has seen the face of Almighty and is at peace. For the family and friends left here on earth, it is a time to grieve, and my prayers are with all these children's family. It could have easily been any of them.

Amber and her family have a long road ahead of them. My prayers are also with this family.

TripleBlack
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TripleBlack 05/26/11 - 08:56 pm
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Just awful. Breaks my heart.

Just awful. Breaks my heart. Prayers to all involved.

mandyme
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mandyme 05/26/11 - 09:10 pm
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Just for Him~so well said, my

Just for Him~so well said, my thoughts exactly. To Stephanie, you've already started......God Bless you. To the family of Taylor, so very sorry for this painful loss.

SMIDDLETON
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SMIDDLETON 05/26/11 - 10:12 pm
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My thoughts and prayers go to

My thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends.

bailyd
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bailyd 05/26/11 - 10:32 pm
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To the people who rush to

To the people who rush to judgement and say Amber should be charged and that she should pay for the funeral, I am sure that her and her family are suffering and will help in any way that they can. These kids were all close friends and this was an accident, its not like it was on purpose. You all were not there and do not know what happened, you are listening to the news and they were not there either. So PLEASE do not pass judement on this girl. It was a freak accident. May GOD BLESS all those involved and especially the Gazaway family. I am so sorry for your loss. And to Amber, my prayers are with you and your family.

duba_0707@yahoo.com
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duba_0707@yahoo.com 05/26/11 - 10:38 pm
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S tephanie111111 I saw your

S tephanie111111 I saw your comment and was sorry to hear someone your age talk this way. I think you and your friends were given another chance to make something of yourselves. You are NOT to old to start over with your life. Please take a moment to think about this and if you need to ,Choose new friends. You didn't know this crowd until you met them, so find new ones. Please know that you are worth more than this. I'll bet someone in the crowd wants to star over also, you be the first. Maybe you can lead them into something Good for the both of you. I will pray for all of you.

whyme
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whyme 05/26/11 - 10:45 pm
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I had heard that there was an

I had heard that there was an accident in that location on my way home from work but didn't think it was a serious one. Indeed, you would think that by the description of how it occurred, the car would be dented but that's about it. This shows that even the simplest of errors can have a tragic turn. My teen is 16 and studying for her driver's license-I continue to impress upon her the significant responsibility that she undertakes getting behind the wheel. She believes in her skill and while I believe in her, I continue to question the true readiness of any teen at this age. There are more distractions and more vehicles on the road than when I was starting out, and how it only takes a second to change your life or that of someone else's. May the families of all of the teens involved know how truly sorry we all are for their pain and how we pray that they will someday feel a semblance of peace again.

bailyd
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bailyd 05/26/11 - 11:37 pm
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puppydog, do you realize that

puppydog, do you realize that amber will have to live with this for the rest of her life. And do you think that Amber is the only teenager that rides around with only one person or three how ever many the law says that you can ride with, i think not... It was an accident. You should have more consideration for all involved. These kids were close friends. Do you think she done this on purpose?????

PaynESTER
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PaynESTER 05/26/11 - 11:49 pm
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@Puppy dog , define

@Puppy dog , define speeding..because the law has to give you 10 MPH unless in a work zone or a school zone, and yeah okay she had to many people in the car. i can name 20 people off the top of my head. and perhaps one might even be or have been your KID...it was an accident.

bcmc15
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bcmc15 05/27/11 - 07:26 am
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Yesterday, my daughter met me

Yesterday, my daughter met me at the front door to tell me that her friend was killed in a horrible car accident & the events that unfolded between her sobs of tears were names of friends that have been a part of our lives over the last 15 years. Amber is and will always be one of the sweetest and kind young adult we know. We love her and will be there for the Lever family. Elaina and McKenzie you too have been to our home and I wish I could take away the pain all of you are feeling. I hope that the Lord relieves some of the pain and hurt you are feeling. No young adult should have to digest what all of you have been through but, I know that if we pray- the Lord will hear our prayers.
Today, looking back none of these young adults got into that vehicle thinking that this was not the last time they would laugh together nor did they know that their lives would be forever altered. I pray that everyone whether you know any of these young adults remember that it is not our place to judge or provide harsh opinion. We have to love them and pray for the strength to heal- if that is even possible.
The Gazaway Family , my heart broke when my daughter told me that she lost her friend. I can’t express the sorrow I feel for your loss of your son. Taylor was much loved and my family sends our love and prays during this difficult time.
The Carter Family.

Purrfectlyevil
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Purrfectlyevil 05/27/11 - 07:26 am
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... Again a needless tragedy

... Again a needless tragedy for a family and a Teen with his future unfolding ahead of him. How many deaths is it going to take for us as ADULTS to realise that a license should not be issued to those under the age of 18???? This does not mean that these are bad kids.. there are just too many things going on as a previous person posted, for these kids to really concentrate on what they are doing behind the wheel. They are not worried about road signs, conditions or traffic flow.. These kids are thinking about the Party on Saturday nite, the homework due on Monday, their friends breakup, the text they just recieved. I have 3 kids, ages 19 thru 26 and I made all three wait until they were 18 to drive. They absolutely HATED me for it... at that time. NOW they, all three have expressed their thanks to me for making them take that extra time to practice and mature. Parents, Neighbors and Legislators need to rethink the Licensing laws for Teens... This does not need to keep happening.. it is very heartbreaking.. my prayers go to those kids, and the family of the young man. Peace~!

Purrfectlyevil
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Purrfectlyevil 05/27/11 - 07:33 am
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... To Why me- Reconsider

... To Why me- Reconsider letting your daughter get her license at this time. Let her mature a bit..Teach her the correct ways and let her get experience on the road and dealing with other drivers' idiosyncrasies and lack of common sense so she will know how to react in certain instances. I hope that you do.

Phildog99
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Phildog99 05/27/11 - 08:33 am
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My prayers are with all

My prayers are with all families involved in this terrible accident. May God blessing contiue to pour on this family at their time of need. Stephanie I'm praying for you too. I hope this accident will not only open the young adults eyes but also us old adults eyes as well, to include parents of younger drivers. Just because our children are able to get their driver's licenses at 16, don't mean that they are ready to drive and are responsible enough to drive without an adult supervisor. I also feel that the school should have some responible for this accident as well(when I were in school we had to complete a driving education course before we where able to get a driving permit, so many hours was required before we could even think about driving any thing much less a car. Why I said the school because their's so many parents who can not afford to send their children to a private driving course and this could be an elective for children to take in school.) Now how are the schools going to fund this, cut out some of the sporting events (less games) not all children going to play sports and not all going to make it the pro's, sport bring money to our schools use some of that money to help fund something like a driving course. Something we know our children will be doing once leaving school. We are lossing to many of our children to accidents such as this. Last year another family lost their child just after graduating from Hephizhab. How many more children have to lose their lives before something is done.

nevertoolate
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nevertoolate 05/27/11 - 08:47 am
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My heart and prayers go out

My heart and prayers go out these the families and those touched by this tragedy. And to Stephanie...my online name, "nevertoolate" has a meaning behind it. I am 48 years old now, and 20 years ago I decided I did not like the person I had become and so I changed. I decided that my life was the way it was because I chose to make it that way. My choices were horrible. It's never too late to change. Pray daily, seek God when you come to the many crossroads that are ahead, and work to become self sufficient (school). It can happen if you only ask for God's Grace and His guidance. Blessings to you!

noaharkwright
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noaharkwright 05/27/11 - 11:36 am
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Amber killed her friend. That

Amber killed her friend. That is enough of a punishment for her crimes.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 05/27/11 - 09:27 am
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Very tragic and
Unpublished

Very tragic and heartbreaking. Teenagers cannot be told this story enough: seatbelts, texting, too many passengers, speeding. Though they may look at you like you're an idiot they need to be told over and over and over. We all remember being a teenager and how illogical and irrational we were. The rules are there for a purpose.

gapeach70
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gapeach70 05/27/11 - 10:36 am
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Taylor was my "other" son. He

Taylor was my "other" son. He and my son were the best of friends, and listed each other as brothers on their facebook pages. Taylor was the type of person who would give the shirt off his back and help a person without question. His gentle demeanor, quirky personality, and free-spirit are what made him so loved. I can't think of anyone who didn't like him. Those who had the privilege of knowing him will have many memories to treasure. I'm going to miss him coming through my front door and plopping down on the recliner, or doing cannonballs off the diving board. To Joey, Dana, and Amanda, you all know how much we loved Taylor, and our hearts go out to you and your entire family.

iloveyou123
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iloveyou123 05/27/11 - 10:56 am
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this was my cuzin i dont

this was my cuzin i dont understand how this could have happened he has lots of friends and family always made me smile and everyone he met smile and laugh but now he is in a better place but this is really hard on the family and i dont understand how he was the only one but atleast we have our memories i love you taylor see you when i get up there with the family :) :) I LOVE YOU tay tay i will cherrish our memories together and with family and friends :) :)

Chillen
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Chillen 05/27/11 - 11:30 am
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happychimer. She will be

happychimer. She will be punished. Her biggest punishment will last her the rest of her life. Her actions took a human life and the life of a friend. I have a friend who wrecked when he was about 18 and a girl in his car died (she was the only one in his car not wearing a seat belt). He has never been the same person.

She will for sure lose her license, there will be plenty of lawsuits, she will have mulitple tickets/fines and she will with certainty be charged with involuntary manslaughter - though I'm sure she won't do jail time.

She's messed her life up good. Her family should hire a good therapist for her right now. She's going to need it.

My condolences to the young man's family. And the young driver's family as well. They are all living a nightmare right now. I can't even imagine.

Willow Bailey
20579
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Willow Bailey 05/27/11 - 11:38 am
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My condolences and prayers to

My condolences and prayers to all the families and especially to Taylor Gazaman's family and Amber Lever. It is a tremedous tradgedy and loss to so many.

As a parent, I have experienced that same fear from the day mine got into a car with another teen driver and then came the day that she was the driver. I hope and pray to never experience that call.

I pray that this loss will not be wasted and that parents and teens will take this time to talk about the dangers and responsibilities of being either passenger or driver. But more importantly, may we all face with full understanding that life is truly a vapor, so very fragile and over so quickly.

May our God comfort you and use this in many lives.

dixiegal
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dixiegal 05/27/11 - 12:11 pm
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My prayers go to all that are

My prayers go to all that are involved in this incident. My heart breaks for these families.

I showed this news article to my 15 year old son yesterday. I go over and over the do's and dont's of when he starts driving on his own next year. We will follow this case to see what the Judicial system decides to do with the driver.

My son as most his age believes he is invincible and I pray that I instill in him the safety and maturity needed when he gets behind the wheel for the first time without me beside him.

I remember way back when.. all the talks from my folks about the do's and dont's. I didnt realize the importance of these talks until I had children of my own.

I pray for God to comfort these families..The driver's worst sentence will be having to live with this for the rest of her life.

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