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Four Teens Killed After Colliding with Cement Pole

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On Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Waldo, Florida, about 12 miles north of Gainesville, a high-speed chase ended in a tragic crash, resulting in the death of four teenage boys. 

The situation started when Florida State Troopers pursued a stolen Honda CRV. During the chase, a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT maneuver) was used by the troopers, causing the vehicle to lose control, roll over, and crash into a concrete utility pole, fatally injuring the occupants.

The four teens in the vehicle, aged between 14 and 17, were later identified, with two of the boys, Jabril Chevers and Lawrence McClendon Jr., dying from their injuries at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Taleak Roberts, 16, and another unidentified boy were pronounced dead at the scene. According to the Alachua County Fire Rescue, it took first responders over an hour and a half to extricate the victims from the wreckage, which was described as being “wrapped around a concrete utility pole.”

The grief was further compounded by a recent tragedy in the McClendon family, as Lawrence’s older brother, Jermaine Godbolt, also a teen, was fatally shot just a month prior. In the face of such loss, the community rallied to support the grieving families, setting up GoFundMe pages to cover funeral expenses and offering tributes to the lives cut short. 

McClendon, a sophomore and outstanding defensive player on his high school football team, was remembered by his coach, Ed Johnson, as a talented athlete and a spirited and beloved team member.

In the aftermath of the crash, Bradford County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Col. Brad Smith recounted that their vehicles could not keep up with the stolen Honda’s high speeds, estimated to be well over 100 mph, which led to the decision to back off near the county line. Nevertheless, a state trooper continued the pursuit, noting during the chase that some of the vehicle’s occupants appeared to be wearing ski masks.

“[The stolen vehicle] did start to pull over on the shoulder of the road, but before they came to a complete stop, they accelerated again, and that is when the chase was on,” said Deputy Col. Smith, per Main Street Daily News

As the community and the families of the victims grapple with the tragedy, the Florida Highway Patrol has initiated a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

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