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CNN:

Following the University of Georgia’s national championship victory, police are now investigating an early Sunday morning single-car crash that killed football player Devin Wheelock and staff member Chandler LeCroy just hours after celebrating with Bulldog fans, authorities said.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, LeCroy, 24, was driving with Wheelock, 20, and two other passengers near the UGA campus in Athens when the car went off the road, striking two utility poles and several trees, Athens-Clarke County police said. The statement of the department says:

Police said Wheelock was pronounced dead at the scene and LeCroy died after being transported to a hospital. According to his LinkedIn, LeCroy was a football recruiting analyst at UGA.

According to the police, the 26-year-old female passenger was seriously injured, and the 21-year-old man was lightly injured. The university confirmed that the two surviving passengers were also members of the football program, but their identities have not been released.

However, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Sunday that Warren McClendon, the Bulldogs’ starting offensive tackle, was the male passenger, citing the player’s father. The father said McClendon required stitches to his forehead but was “doing well.”

On Saturday afternoon, Sanford Stadium and the surrounding streets were filled with ecstatic fans who came to celebrate the Bulldogs’ second straight national championship. But the next morning they joined the team, mourning the sudden loss of Wheelock and Lecroix.

Die-hard fan Daniel DeWitt attended Saturday’s victory parade and told CNN that Wheelock was “bright and happy” as the team walked through a throng of red-and-black-clad supporters.

“It’s just heartbreaking coming off the holiday weekend. And yesterday’s parade, seeing this player and then finding out he lost his life early this morning, the entire Bulldog Nation is devastated,” Dewitt said.

Photos of the crash scene taken by nearby residents show a wooden power pole snapped in half and the frame of a car crumpled against an apartment building.

“That car was dented like a tin can,” apartment complex resident Cecily Pangburn told CNN. He described hearing a loud explosion during the crash, followed by a blackout.

The police report that the investigation into the accident is ongoing. Investigators asked anyone with information to contact authorities.

The two young members of the UGA team were remembered by several university executives as lively and valuable presences in the football program.

“Devin was an outstanding young man in every way. He was always smiling, a great teammate and a joy to coach,” head football coach Kirby Smart said in a statement Sunday.

“Chandler was a valuable member of our football staff and brought incredible attitude and energy every day,” Smart said.

Support for the Bulldogs also poured in from the college football community on Sunday, including head coaches. Brian Kelly Louisiana State University and Hugh Freeze from Auburn University.

Devin Wheelock plays against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Sanford Stadium on October 15, 2022.

“These two special people meant the world to our football program and athletic department,” UGA Director of Athletics Josh Brooks said. statement. “We are working with our medical staff and mental health and performance team to ensure our staff and student-athletes have the support they need during this extremely difficult time.”

Wheelock, a redshirt sophomore from New Milford, New Jersey, joined the team as a freshman in 2020, according to the UGA football roster. He played in the offensive line in all 15 games of the team this year.

The player spent Saturday with the fans, soaking up last week’s championship win. But one fan in particular got to spend some quality time with Wheelock in the hours before he died.

Wheelock met star-struck 7-year-old Camdin Gonzalez after a young fan spotted Wheelock as he was leaving the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Athens on Saturday.

The player punched Camdin and let the guy try on his massive 2021 championship ring.

“He was humble and very grateful that we knew who he was and wanted to talk to him,” Camdin’s grandfather, Sam Kramer, said, adding that Willock seemed “so full of life and just happy.”

Dewitt, a fan who saw Wheelock in Saturday’s parade, told CNN he has a 2021 UGA championship tattoo and plans to get a matching one for this season’s victory. This time, according to him, Wheelock’s number 77 will be displayed there.

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