ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia has fired the football recruiting staffer who survived a January crash that killed player Devin Willock and another recruiting staffer, less than a month after she filed a lawsuit against the university's athletic association.
The school issued a statement saying Victoria “Tori” Bowles was dismissed because she refused to cooperate with an internal investigation into the crash. Her attorneys claim she is being retaliated against for filing the lawsuit, which also names former Georgia player and first-round NFL draft pick Jalen Carter.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Bowles' firing.
The Jan. 15 crash, which occurred just hours after a parade celebrating Georgia's second straight national championship, killed the 20-year-old Willock and the driver of the Ford Expedition, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy.
Police said LeCroy had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and was racing Carter at about 104 mph when the SUV swerved off the road, struck two utility poles and a tree before slamming into another tree on the driver's side, where both LeCroy and Willock were sitting.
Another Georgia player, Warren McClendon, sustained only minor injuries. But Bowles, who was sitting in the backseat next to Willock, sustained serious injuries including lumbar and rib fractures, a spinal cord injury and lacerations to the kidney and liver, her lawsuit stated. She also sustained a closed head injury with neurological damage and severe eye pain.
The lawsuit, which includes LeCroy's estate as an additional defendant, requests at least $171,595 in general damages along with punitive damages.
The suit claims the Georgia athletic association entrusted the rented SUV to LeCroy and was aware that she had at least two “super speeder” violations among four speeding tickets prior to the crash.
The athletic association said staff members were authorized to use rental vehicles for recruiting purposes only. "Under no circumstances were recruiting staff authorized to use rental cars to drive at excessive speeds while intoxicated,” it said in a statement.
Bowles was on paid medical leave for a couple of months following the crash, before the athletic association placed her on unpaid leave in March, according to records obtained by the Journal-Constitution.
Rob Buck, an attorney representing Bowles in her lawsuit, said the university has engaged in a “campaign of intimidation” against his client, whose job paid less than $12,000 a year.
“Tory, like all other perceived liabilities to the football program, became expendable to UGA, and despite her loyalty and meager salary, has been steamrolled," he said.
The athletic association said in a statement Monday that while it wished Bowles well in her recovery, it was forced to fire her for lack of cooperation.
“Applicable policies require university employees to cooperate with internal investigations,” the statement obtained by the Journal-Constitution said. “Over the course of several months, Ms. Bowles was asked — on numerous occasions — to speak with our investigators and provide information, and through her attorney, she repeatedly refused to cooperate.
"As a result, we were ultimately left with no choice but to terminate her employment.”
Carter, who was selected ninth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL draft, received 12 months’ probation and a $1,000 fine in March after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing.
McClendon was a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams.