Teen wanted to save friend from fiery wreck, neither made it

Published 7:44 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

JACKSON (AP) — Cam’Ron Dowell, 15, didn’t want to leave his friend behind in the wreckage after disaster cut short a night of celebration.

Five teenage boys were on their way to a movie theater after a friend’s birthday dinner when their car struck an overpass in Jackson the night of Feb. 23.

An off-duty firefighter happened upon the scene of the crash. He would later tell Cam’Ron’s mother that he was trying to pull the teen out of the ruined car, but Cam’Ron refused to leave without his friend, who was trapped inside, said father Terrance Dowell.

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There was a small explosion and Cam’Ron was hurt badly, his father said. No one was able to save 15-year-old De’Anthony Bunch, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Cam’Ron was rushed to the hospital and died three days later, surrounded by family.

On the morning of March 1, Cam’Ron’s family gathered in a circle in his father’s living room to prepare an obituary and plan his funeral service. They sorted through stacks of photographs, which told a story of Cam’Ron’s life.

One photo has been edited so angel’s wings sprout from Cam’Ron’s back. Adorned with images of doves and clouds, the tribute says “#FlyHighCam.”

In a different one, he’s eating pizza with his younger brother, currently 3 years old. They were inseparable and called each other “best friends,” his mother said.

Then there’s Cam’Ron as a baby, cradled in his mother’s arms.

Chasity Daniels-Jones gave birth to Cam’Ron on July 9, 2003. She had just turned 17 a month prior.

“The first time I held Cam’Ron in my arms, my heart skipped a beat,” Daniels-Jones said. “I loved him with everything I had in me and he loved me the same.”

The “dark years” is what she calls the time after her mother’s death, when she was 12 and on the cusp of becoming a teenager: “After my mom passed, I was messed up for years,” she said.

When she brought her firstborn into the world, it was as if a light, which had been missing, started shining again.

“Cam’Ron was a pure spirit his soul was pure,” Daniels-Jones said. “He was my first true love.”

Throughout Cam’Ron’s life, he always knew how to bring joy to others, she said.

“He was so young but his mind was so wise. He always knew what to say to me to make me smile in any situation,” Daniels-Jones said. “…He was my blessing. He was my angel, even though he was only with me for 15 short years.”

In many ways, his family said, Cam’Ron was an average teenage boy. The ninth-grader at Sumner Hill Junior High School loved football and basketball. His team was the Houston Rockets.

He liked the finer things in life, his grandmother Levella Dowell said. Even at a young age, he’d order steaks when his family went out to eat. He was proud of his sneaker collection, especially his retro Jordans.

Cam’Ron also loved his family and his church, Refreshing Rain Ministries Church of God in Christ, in Clinton. There he participated in the children’s choir, played the drums and worshiped with hand-clapping, foot-stomping enthusiasm.

Terrance Dowell said Cam’Ron had dreams of becoming a professional athlete.

“He wanted to play ball. (He said) if he can’t get rich playing ball, he’d be an engineer,” he said.

Levella Dowell said her grandson was “an all-around good kid” and “sweetheart” with a playful spirit.

He would say: “Mama, you’re fat, but you’re sure fine,” and duck away before she could swat him, the grandmother said.

Levella Dowell saw Cam’Ron that Saturday, a few hours before the crash, at a niece’s wedding shower.

He was in a good mood. He helped put down tables and take down signs.

The grandmother told him to pull his sagging pants up. Everyone laughed when he replied that someone had stolen his belt at the gym.

Of the five kids in the car that night, three were 15 years old and one was 13 years old, Cam’Ron’s family said.

They were all close friends who have known each other since first grade or kindergarten, Levella Dowell said.

“That’s why it’s so tragic because everybody knew each other,” she said.

The kids ate at Logan’s Roadhouse and started driving to a movie theater. The car crash happened just before 10 p.m.

The wreck is still under investigation by the Jackson Police Department. Only one vehicle was involved, police said. The car had left the roadway and struck a portion of the overpass.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but excessive speed is believed to have been a factor, police said.

Only three of the kids in the car survived the wreck.

On Feb. 27, Clinton Public Schools Superintendent Tim Martin said in a statement that the school district family has been “devastated” by the losses.

“Our teachers and staff at all schools are grieving the loss of these two fine young men. In Clinton we are family and when one of us hurts we all hurt. Please join us in praying for the families and friends of these students in the coming days,” Martin’s statement said.

The other victim, De’Anthony, also known as “Duke,” was remembered by a former teacher as an inquisitive and open-minded student and dedicated and talented athlete.

In the intensive care unit, one of the boys in the crash had woken up after days of unconsciousness, Terrance Dowell said.

“Where’s Cam? Where’s Cam?” the boy asked, his mother had told Terrance Dowell.

Many in the community are mourning Cam’Ron’s death, his family said.

“He was such a joy to everyone,” Daniels-Jones said.

Fighting back tears, Daniels-Jones recounted what her 3-year-old son told her days before.

“Mom, God has Cam’Ron. Cam’Ron’s with God.”