Account below told
by Jim Griffin, Justin's father
I have interviewed four people who saw the
accident and their version of what happened
differs from the report done by the state trooper
who did it at 11:30 PM with a flashlight.
Justin had gone out to top
off his gas tank and to get out of the house for
a few minutes around 8:30 PM. When he didn't
return in 20 min I tried to call him on his cell
phone but got no answer. I was recovering from
ankle surgery and asked my wife to go out and
look for him. She drove up on a major accident
site with dozens of fire trucks and flashing
lights. She called me and I got in the car and
tried to get to the site.
The helicopter had just
landed and the police told me to go to the
hospital. Justin died at UAB medical center
shortly after the helicopter landed.
The bottom line on the
cause of the accident is that we believe that
Justin was trying to put a CD in his CD player
while going around a corner at night. We found a
single music CD on the driver's side floor and
his CD case open on the right seat.
Justin was very careful
with his CD's and would never throw one in the
floor. A study of the skid marks prior to his
leaving the road shows that they were straight
with no side loading and were headed across the
center line. This means that he was probably not
paying enough attention and when he realized that
he was headed into the other lane he hit the
The road continued to
curve to the right and his car slid off the road
and into a class-three power pole. The pole hit
his driver's side door just behind the door
handle. There is very little protection in the
T-top MR2 in this type of accident where the door
Justin died from a severe
head injury. Justin had over 7,000 miles of
driving 10 different types of cars during the
time he spent with his learners permit. He had a
lot of experience both in the Beast, my 93 turbo,
and in his MR2, 93 NA, automatic. He was a very
careful driver and generally very cautious.
Most of us survived our
16-year-old mistakes in cars. I taught Justin to
never look down while driving, but kids make
The witnesses agreed that
they saw him hit the brakes and the car hit the
pole. There were no spins and they all agreed
that he was going about the speed of the other
traffic out that evening, about 55 mph. Losing
Justin is our greatest
loss. He was a very special person and his mom
and I miss him every day.
family celebrate teenager's life
By ERIN SULLIVAN
The visitation was supposed to be over at 7 p.m.
Monday, but more than 200 people still stood in
line waiting to say goodbye to Justin.
In the line snaking around the building of
Southern Heritage Funeral Home in Pelham, most
people stood solemnly, tears streaking their
faces. There were elderly people with walkers.
Teenage girls still in their cheerleading
uniforms from practice.
All waiting to spend a moment with this quiet
kid, this self-proclaimed "Computer
Wizard," who would rather tinker with a hard
drive than go to a party.
Justin was the guy everyone knew from high
school. Voted "most likely to succeed."
Brilliant but down-to-earth. The one who made
chemistry seem easy and was more than happy to
help you with your homework. He was remembered as
unselfish, whether volunteering Sundays in church
to watch kids in the nursery or fixing someone's
Justin Griffin, 16, a junior at Oak Mountain High
School, died in a one-vehicle crash a little
after 9 p.m. Saturday. Will Hester, who has known
Justin since they were in second grade, figured
Justin was bored and tired of sitting inside the
house and left to go to a gas station to top off
The gas station was just a few miles down the
road. After 20 minutes, Justin's parents, Jim and
June Griffith, called his cell phone, worried.
There was no answer. They drove down Shelby
County 14 looking for him. Police had blocked off
the road. There were ambulances.
A family member said
Justin's parents weren't allowed inside the
blockade. Justin was being cut out of his vehicle
and flown by helicopter to UAB Hospital,
officials said. There, doctors told his parents
that Justin died.