He and his friends got into their cars and headed north.
“Just a normal night, nothing going on,” one of those friends, Josh Jackson, said Saturday afternoon. “We weren’t even being bad.”
An off-duty Weaver policeman helped at scene / see separate article at the end of this one
Minutes later, one of the cars veered off Quintard Avenue and hit a light pole, leaving Watson dead and two others hospitalized with numerous injuries.
Watson was riding shotgun in Travis Beasley’s low-profile white Nissan Maxima with Cameron Mitchell in back as they approached BB&T bank. They were catching all the lights at around 65 mph, Jackson estimated, when Beasley changed lanes. Beasley lost control then braked, hit the curb, busted a tire, hit part of a stump and ran straight into the light pole at the 12th Street intersection.
The Nissan struck the metal pole head-on in front of the passenger seat.
“It happened so quick,” said Jackson, who had trailed behind in his charcoal Jeep.
Other motorists stopped and pulled the three teenagers out of the car. A few minutes later it burst into flame. None of the kids were wearing seat belts. Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown pronounced Watson dead at 12:10 a.m.
No alcohol or drugs were involved, Brown said.
Beasley and Mitchell were taken to Regional Medical Center. Both broke their right femurs and arms, said Jackson, who spent the night at the hospital.
Beasley also broke a clavicle and needed staples to close wounds on the back of his head and eyelids, Jackson said.
Watson turned 17 exactly two months ago, was junior class president, recently scored a 23 on the ACT and hoped to attend the University of Alabama.
A group of Watson’s close friends gathered at the scene just 12 hours later, placing flowers, a balloon, a teddy bear, a necklace and two candles against the flame-scarred pole. They were looking for his cell phone, shoes and wallet. But all they had found was bits of glass, pieces of the headlight and charred car parts.
None of them had really slept, said Taylor Williams, who would’ve been with them but had to work Friday night. A wrestler, he had just gotten back from a hydration test in Birmingham. He was still trying to piece together what happened with his friends, going through scenarios of how the car could have missed a large tree and stump before colliding with the pole.
What happened hasn’t sunk in yet, said Cody Morrison. He saw Watson and the others at his basketball game Friday night.
“And that was the last time I talked to him … we were supposed to go to a cheer competition this morning,” Morrison said.
The boys said Weaver High School Principal Frances Shipp told them at the hospital that counselors will be available Monday at school.
“They hit the pole, the back of the car …,” said Jackson through red-rimmed eyes as he stood yards away from the pole with 10 friends. “Speed kills, man.”
Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546
Weaver policeman who happened to be driving by assists at scene
Weaver police officer Cliff Edwards was off duty as he drove along Quintard Avenue Friday night, but he stopped to offer his assistance when he came upon a terrible scene at 12th Street.
The traffic accident that claimed the life of Weaver High School student Cody Watson and injured two of his friends had happened only minutes before, by Edwards’ reckoning.
He arrived on the scene right before Anniston emergency personnel — he could hear the sirens approaching, he told The Star Saturday night.
Watson, Travis Beasley and Cameron Mitchell had already been taken from the car by a passersby but a fire had erupted in the engine compartment of the white Maxima Beasley had been driving.
“Without hurting anybody, we need to get people as far away as we can,” Edwards said he told those near the wreckage.
He said the three victims were then moved about 50 yards south of the crash site.
Edwards also said that when he first made contact with him, Watson, though “not responding” to stimulus, was “still breathing.”
“He was still fighting.”
A family friend of the Watsons, who asked not to be identified, spoke of the tremendous loss suffered by the Weaver community. Cody Watson was president of the junior class at Weaver High School.
She said he was also known as “The Cody Watson,” a playful title belying what was actually a humble nature.
“Cody was an exceptional, kind-hearted, loving young man,” she said tearfully. “He was so fun to be around.”
— Bill Edwards