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Update

Police investigating fatal Lewes utility vehicle crash

Cape High students involved in accident
April 8, 2021

A 16-year-old girl died April 6 as the result of a utility vehicle crash on a private asphalt driveway off Robinsonville Road in Lewes. 

Master Cpl. Heather Pepper, spokeswoman for Delaware State Police, said at 6:47 p.m., the driver of a John Deere Gator, who was not identified, tried to negotiate a left curve at a high rate of speed. The Gator began skidding and overturned off the roadway, striking a tree and coming to rest on its roof, Pepper said. 

Perishing in the crash was Margaret “Maggie” Browne, of Rehoboth Beach, a sophomore at Cape Henlopen High School. 

Five teenage girls ranging in age from 15 to 17 were in the Gator at the time of the crash.

This particular model of Gator is a side-by-side utility task vehicle (UTV) with two passenger seats and a rear utility bed, Pepper said. The passenger seats are equipped with seat belts. The seating positions of the passengers are still unknown, Pepper said, but all of them were ejected from the Gator as it overturned. Browne was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Another 16-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl were both helicoptered from the scene with serious injuries to be treated at Beebe Healthcare. Delaware State Police said April 7 both girls are in stable condition.

A 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl were transported to Beebe by ambulance with minor injuries. Delaware State Police said April 7 both girls were treated and released.

The identities of the surviving girls have not been disclosed. 

Preliminary reports provided at the time of dispatch stated a deer was involved in the collision. The investigation has determined there were no deer or other animals involved in this collision, police said. 

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), UTVs and other off-road vehicles are not regulated by Delaware Department of Transportation, nor do they have to be registered, said DelDOT spokesman C.R. McLeod. Generally, off-road vehicles cannot be operated on public streets or highways.

Browne wanted to be an engineer, and was involved in track and competitive cheerleading. A native of Wyckoff, N.J., she enjoyed reading books, especially mythology and historical fiction. 

Browne’s family said in a statement, “While we cannot fathom life without her, we know that she left a little bit of her with everyone she met. Her memory and impact on those she loved unconditionally will be forever remembered. She was a loving, compassionate and devoted daughter, sister, granddaughter, aunt, niece, cousin and friend. She was our ‘Maggie.’”

A walk-through visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 13, at Parsell Funeral Homes in Lewes. A mass will be held at 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 14, at St. Edmond Church in Rehoboth. The burial will be private. 

Those who cannot attend the mass in person can stream it live at youtube.com/channel/UCKBkUj3Am_hZiVsHWAxlgwg.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Browne’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation at michaeljfox.com.

The crash is still under investigation by Delaware State Police Troop 7’s Collision Reconstruction Unit. Anyone with more information on the crash should contact Cpl. Andrew Mitchell at 644-5020. Victims’ assistance is available at 1-800-VICTIM-1 or by emailing debra.reed@state.de.us

In a statement, Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, said, “No words can begin to express the deep and utter sadness I feel at the loss of a beautiful, young life. Maggie Browne wasn’t just a local teen who grew up alongside us; she was a kind, loving and generous human being who gave the gift of happiness and joy to all of us. Let us extend the embrace with which we hold Maggie’s family even further for all of our Cape Region children, who now more than ever, need to know they have the love and support of us all.”

Cape High offers condolences, counseling to families grieving loss of student

Cape High Principal Nikki Miller sent a letter to families April 7 about the accident that involved several Cape High students, and offered thoughts and condolences to friends and family of everyone involved.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that this message has to be sent,” Miller wrote. “The Cape Henlopen School District, our staff, and students are deeply saddened over the loss of one of these students.”

Miller said a sudden death can be a very upsetting experience, and asked parents to monitor their children and support them.

“This can be a difficult time even if they were not close to our beloved student,” she said. 

In a statement issued by the district, officials said school counselors will be available to students for support following spring break. 

“The Cape Henlopen School District is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our high school students as the result of a tragic accident that occurred on April 6,” the statement said. “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to all involved and to the student’s family and friends. Students age 3-17 who are in need of immediate support are encouraged to call or text the 24/7 crisis hotline at 1-800-969-4357 (HELP) or text DE to 741741.”

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