BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A New Year’s Eve crash that killed three 20-year-old Bakersfield men and resulted in gross vehicular manslaughter charges against a fourth has a number of tragic elements. Among those elements: three of the four were exceptionally close and had been friends for years.
It was 11:09 p.m. — 51 minutes from the end of the most reviled year of our collective lifetime. 2020 was finally on the way out. 20-year-old Devin Atha kissed his mother on the cheek.
He and his friends, he told her that night, were going to pop over to a friend’s house, just a few blocks away in west Bakersfield, to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop from Times Square and they’d all be back by 12:30.
Devin’s mother Alice Hutchings wasn’t the least bit worried. These were solid guys — close friends of her son’s she’d known, in the case of two of them — practically all their lives. Family friends. One in particular, 20-year-old Adam Teasdale, had even vacationed with them.
“I didn’t think about it,” she said. “I had this sense of calm over me throughout the night. Except of course when I (texted) my son at 12:43 … and said, ‘Hey, what’s up? Happy New Year.’ And usually every time I’ve ever texted my son he will always say, ‘I’m around the corner.’ And, literally, I didn’t know he was around the corner. It’s a little hard because every time he’d say, ‘Mom, I’m around the corner.’”
Her front yard security camera shows the group — four young men and a young woman — walk to Adam’s’s car. Another car — make and model not clear — pulls up alongside and there seems to be conversation. Then both cars leave in the same direction, one after another. Just seconds later the camera — at 11:13 p.m. — picks up the sound of squealing tires and an impact.
Teasdale had crashed into a tree in the center divider on Brimhall Road, between Old Farm Road and Jewetta.
Teasdale and his girlfriend, both belted into their front seats, sustained minor injuries. The three men in the back — none of them wearing seat belts — were ejected and suffered fatal injuries.
Devin Lee Atha and Timothy Michael Wilson, known as T.J., both of whom, like Teasdale, were 2018 Liberty High School grads and their friend, Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, known as A.J,, were killed.
Teasdale faces three counts of manslaughter and a single count of DUI causing bodily injury.
Bakersfield Police are investigating. BPD spokesman Sgt. Robert Pair could provide no update on the identities of the occupants of the second car or say what role if any they might have played in what appears to have been a one-car accident
Alice Hutchings says her son — a CSUB student who had talked about becoming a counselor — was forgiving in nature and would not have wanted blame to fall on Teasdale, his longtime friend.
“I think Devin would have wanted anyone to forgive his friend Adam and not hold any anger toward him,” she said. “Just — that wasn’t Devin.”
But as for accountability — that will be for the court to decide. Teasdale was arraigned Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to be back in court Jan. 26. He remains in custody on $1 million bail.
Separate gofundme.com accounts have been established for each of the three young men killed in the wreck.
The accident is more evidence of how quickly things can change — in the blink of an eye — and promise can give way to tragedy.