Fatal crash jars UMES campus

The Baltimore Sun

Brielle Newland came home from college to celebrate the Labor Day weekend with friends and family. She chatted with her mother, went shopping and wore a white dress to a party in Randallstown hosted by a University of Maryland Eastern Shore classmate.

As the holiday drew to an end, Newland hugged her mother goodbye in the yard of the family's Turners Station home and joined three friends for the drive back to the campus.

"They were all happy and smiling. They were glad to be going back," said her mother, Keisha Newland.

Brielle Newland, a 19-year-old sophomore biology major and 2005 Dundalk High School graduate, died Monday night in a five-vehicle accident on U.S. 50 near Tarbutton Mill Road in Talbot County, Maryland State Police said.

The three other UMES students in the car were injured, including the driver, 19-year-old Jacquell Dendy of Gwynn Oak. She was listed in serious but stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night.

The news jarred the UMES campus, where one in six students is from the Baltimore area.

"It could have been any one of us," said 19-year-old Trenae Pitts, who lives in White Marsh.

It's a weekend routine for students at the historically black college in Princess Anne: A group of friends from the Baltimore area pile into a car, on a turnaround trip from the bucolic campus to the city. Pitts was making the same trip back to school Monday night on U.S. 50.

"I came up behind the wreck and I got out and tried to help people who were hurt. I never even realized that the most damaged car was the one with my friends," she said.

Another fellow student, Tyeshia Warren, 18, of West Baltimore, inched her way along the highway before police began detouring traffic onto a secondary road near the Talbot County community of Trappe, about an hour away from campus.

Warren did not learn of Newland's death until her dormitory adviser gave her the news yesterday morning.

"Brielle was just a happy person, one who would hug everybody," Warren said, sobbing. "She was my first friend in freshman year, then she made other friends who became my friends, too. We were a little family here on the Eastern Shore. Now it's all gone."

Newland was a passenger in a 2002 Hyundai Accent driven by Dendy, according to state police. The car was headed east on U.S. 50 when, police said, it crossed the center line and struck a 2007 Honda minivan driven by Zeng Chun, 39, of Gambrills.

Police said the Hyundai continued east in the westbound lane and struck a 2004 Jeep Wrangler driven by Matthew Hastings, 29, of Cambridge, then crashed into a Chevy Monte Carlo driven by Albert German III, 60, of Ocean City.

The Hyundai then overturned and struck a 2004 Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Richard Beavers, 50, of Easton.

The accident appears to have been caused by driver error, although it is still under investigation, police said. There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol in the car, police said.

Two other passengers in the Hyundai, 19-year-old Lavette Martin and 18-year-old Cierra Moyd, both of Baltimore, were treated at the Memorial Hospital at Easton and released, a spokesman said.

Both young women suffered bruises and lacerations, according to Martin's mother, Yvonne Martin.

Attempts to reach relatives of Moyd and Dendy were not successful.

The four girls had been friends since their freshman year at the school. They reconnected last week as they moved back to campus for the new school year, Yvonne Martin recalled.

"They were running from one room to another, unpacking, setting up bookshelves," said Yvonne Martin, who went to the Newland home yesterday to offer her condolences.

Dozens of friends, relatives and neighbors gathered at the home, many bearing trays of barbecue and boxes of soda. They recalled a dedicated student who dreamed of becoming an anesthesiologist.

A group of young women clutched each other and wept as they paged through Newland's photo album. Between turquoise covers decorated with flowers and plastic gemstones, Newland had tucked pictures from homecoming dances and proms, pool parties and cookouts.

The women, all of whom have roots in Turners Station, said they had been a close-knit group of friends since middle school, when they hung out at Skateland and called themselves "The Dynasty" and "The Bomb Squad" because they were the girls who were "the bomb."

"We definitely loved her and she knew it, too," said Madison Jones, 19, recalling how the friends always gathered at the young woman's home to do each other's makeup, share clothes and eat Newland's celebrated french toast.

Newland loved to dance and belonged to a step squad in Perry Hall as well as to a college dance team, friends and family said. She was an honor student at Dundalk High School and spent summers working at Pizza Hut and Kmart to make extra money, they said.

On Saturday, she had popped in to visit one of her oldest friends, Tynekua Smith, 20, of Turners Station.

"I was asleep and she jumped on my bed, gave me a hug and said, 'I haven't seen you in a week,'" Smith recalled, adding that she later accompanied Newland and Martin as they went shopping for white dresses to wear to the party.

At UMES, Windell Wiggins II, the sophomore class president, and Monte Jeter, a student government ambassador, busied themselves yesterday organizing a prayer vigil for Newland and the injured students.

The university, which has an enrollment of 3,900, has also started a fundraising drive for Newland's family.

The two said that students rarely take public transportation. A round-trip bus ticket costs $64 and doubles the travel time for a weekend at home.

Yvonne Martin said that she has always worried about her daughter traveling over the Bay Bridge so frequently. Her daughter called her Monday night to say that the group had just stopped to eat at a fast-food restaurant and that she was going to take a nap.

Ten minutes later, police called to tell her about the accident, she said.

Yvonne Martin said she hopes her daughter will transfer to a college closer to home.

Keisha Newland said that she embraced each of the four students as they got into the car Monday night. She asked her daughter to phone her when she arrived, then waved at the departing car.

Brielle Newland stuck her head out of the window and shouted "Bye, Mom," her mother recalled.

"I said, 'Brielle, don't say "Goodbye," say "See you later,"'" Newland said.

But, as the car drove away, the young woman gazed at her mother and again called, "Goodbye."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com chris.guy@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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