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Family hopes teen’s death can be lesson for others

POULSBO — Most people have heard the adage that drinking and driving kills.

Whitney Wells’ friends and family just never thought he’d be the person to bring that lesson home to them.

The 19-year-old Poulsbo man died in the early morning hours of Oct. 26 when he crashed his car along Clear Creek Road. Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputies have concluded that alcohol and speed were contributing factors in the crash.

But those closest to Whitney said the tragedy of his death is that it was so uncharacteristic of the guy who was everyone’s shining star.

“Whitney was not like that. This was not his regular behavior. He was about to go out of town and I think he just went all out,” said best friend Nicolas Larrabee.

“Whitney was the guiding light for these kids he knew, he had always been the designated driver,” added mother Debbie Wells. “One girl who came by here told us she called him from Puyallup one time. She’d been drinking and she didn’t know who else to call and he drove all the way out to Puyallup so she wouldn’t get in the car.”

Whitney was to leave Oct. 27 as a hand aboard a private yacht from Poulsbo’s The Boat Company on the tour company’s maiden voyage to Costa Rica and Panama. Debbie said her son, a 2002 graduate of North Kitsap High School, was looking forward to seeing new things and planned to decide on where he wanted to go to college when he returned.

“He was a dreamer and a planner. He was going places in this world,” Debbie commented.

Out of the tragedy, Whitney’s loved ones want to create an example that could save other teens. Larrabee had Whitney’s totalled car towed to his house and took photos, which he distributed to NKHS ASB and Teen Aware advisors. He said he remembers anti-drinking and driving messages from high school but also said that they obviously weren’t as effective as they could have been.

He said he hopes to be able to tell Whitney’s story to local students to show them the real consequences of their decisions.

“I’m trying to think of something I could do that would be bigger than the message we got when we were in high school,” Larrabee said.

“You can tell your kid never get in the car after drinking and they know that but when they are under the influence, they lose their judgement,” Debbie added. “I’d like to tell the kids watch out for your buddies. If it takes five of you to hold him down, if you have to take the keys, if you have to pop the tires, do whatever it takes to not have him get in that car.”

But more than anything, Whitney’s friends want the community to realize that while his death was the result of a bad choice, that his life was something near and dear to everyone who knew him. Whitney, so named for Mt. Whitney in California where he was born, was known for his love of cars, music and his sense of humor.

Debbie said teenagers have been coming by her home in droves since word of Whitney’s death to visit with the family and sit in Whitney’s room. She said friends have also been calling Whitney’s cell phone and leaving messages, just to hear his voice one more time.

“This was a fluke and I know it was because he was dancing his little heart out and saying good-bye to his friends for five or six months, not for a lifetime,” Debbie said.

Larrabee said he wants to continue to memorialize his friend by telling his story, hopefully to save other lives in the future. He and some friends have also erected a white cross at the site of the crash.

“I want people to realize that this was just one moment of his life,” Larrabee added.

Wells said she and her family are putting together an album of stories about Whitney from letters and cards they’ve received. She’s asking anyone with a funny or touching story about her son to write to the family at P.O. Box 31, Poulsbo, WA 98370, or e-mail them at johnw@c-promptcomputers.com.

Sidebar:

Wells’ family asks

for return of camera

The Wells family is asking the community for help retrieving a video camera that was in Whitney Wells’ Acura Integra when he crashed Oct. 26.

Mother Debbie Wells said Whitney had just recently bought the expensive camera in order to take images of his friends to watch while in Costa Rica and Panama.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputies noted the camera in the list of items at the scene, but the item has since been stolen from the vehicle, along with some stereo equipment.

Wells said she doesn’t care about the stereo but would like to see the camera returned to her family.

“All I want is the camera for the sentimental value of it. It’s the last piece of him I have and it would mean so much to me,” she commented.

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