Damian Cary Betts was on his way to The Frederick News-Post on Tuesday morning when he fatally crashed his 1965 Buick into an oncoming car in Walkersville.
The 18-year-old worked as a distribution inserter at the newspaper and had been driving the old car that he had enjoyed buying parts for and fixing up, his father said Tuesday night.
"That's where his money was going. He loved working on cars," said Toby Betts, adding that he always enjoyed soccer and playing video games. "He was loving and caring and he was always smiling. He would do anything for anyone."
Maryland State Police investigating the crash said that Betts, of Woodsboro, crashed after reacting to an oncoming car that had moved toward his lane.
He was driving south on Md. 194 north of Devilbiss Bridge Road just after 8:30 a.m. A northbound 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit moved toward the center line, causing him to veer right, said Maryland State Police Cpl. Todd Hill.
"He panicked," Hill said. "He thought the person was going to drive into his lane."
The Volkswagen never crossed into the southbound lane, Hill said.
When attempting to steer back onto the road, Betts overcorrected and drove into the opposite lane of traffic, slamming head-on into a 2007 GMC pickup driven by Robert Huyett Startzman, 47, of Hagerstown, police said.
Damian Betts was taken by ambulance to Frederick Memorial Hospital and eventually flown to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died, Hill said.
Startzman and his passenger, Robert Joseph Startzman, 27, of Hagerstown, were taken by ambulance to Frederick Memorial. Both were treated and released.
Hill said the Buick's steering could have played a role in Damian Betts' inability to bring the car under control.
Toby Betts said Frederick Memorial Hospital staff were the first to notify him and told him that Damian Betts was in and out of consciousness.
"They told me his heart stopped on three different occasions and that they brought him back and got his heart going again. But at that point he had lost too much blood and he passed," said Toby Betts, fighting back tears in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Damian Betts was a 2012 graduate of Walkersville High School. He had been working at the News-Post for about a year and a half, Toby Betts said, noting that he was focused on saving his money and deciding whether to go to college or join the military.
Toby Betts also said his son was an organ donor and adamant about giving blood and donating organs to those in need.
"I'll always remember his laugh. I'll always remember how much fun he had and how much he was willing to give," he said.
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