Justin Griffin
October 18, 2003

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 brakes.

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 is hit.

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 mistakes.

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.

Jim Griffin

Friends, family celebrate teenager's life


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 computer.

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 his tank.

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.