Laween Akrawi, 18, loved cars and was ecstatic when his father got him a white BMW 3 Series coupe last summer.
On Friday night, the senior at Lake Braddock Secondary School was driving that car, heading west on Route 289 in Springfield, Va., on his way back to his neighborhood to hang out after eating at Burger King with friends. As he crossed the Interstate 95 overpass, he lost control of the vehicle, slammed into a tree and died at the scene, Fairfax County police said. His passenger, a 17-year-old friend, was hospitalized and is expected to survive.
Akrawi appeared to be speeding before the car veered off the road, said Fairfax police spokesman Roger Henriquez.
The crash came just hours after the last day of school before winter break, and Akrawi, of Fairfax Station, had just finished the fall semester of his senior year. The honors student had hoped to stay home after graduation and attend nearby George Mason University, with the goal of becoming a doctor, friends said. They described him as a bright young man with a perpetually upbeat attitude.
“You would never have seen him with a frown on his face. He would always be smiling no matter what the situation was,” said Chris Shammas, 17, one of Akrawi’s closest friends.
Akrawi was born in Baltimore soon after his parents emigrated from the Kurdistan region of Iraq nearly two decades ago, escaping the regime of Saddam Hussein. The family has been part of a close Kurdish community in Northern Virginia for the past decade, and several family friends came to their home Saturday to offer support.
“He’s a smart, intelligent, down-to-earth young boy,” said Beri Dosky, a 28-year-old family friend who was among those at the house Saturday. “He had everything planned,”
Akrawi was the oldest of three children, with a 14-year-old sister who attends the same school and a 9-year-old brother.
“He always looked out for me,” said Veen Akrawi, his sister. “He always snitched on me if I did something bad just so I could be safe.”
Shammas met Akrawi when he joined Lake Braddock for his freshman year. They bonded as sneakerheads — collecting and admiring sneakers — which later gave way to an obsession with cars.
It ran in Akrawi’s blood; his father is a salesman at a Ford dealership. His first car was a Lexus IS 300, which his father helped him trade in so he could buy the BMW from Craigslist.
“His car was his baby,” said Chris Clarke, a Lake Braddock senior.
Akrawi would cruise to “Cars and Coffee” events on the weekends, where people would congregate in Great Falls and a shopping center to get caffeinated and talk about their cars. At school, he parked his BMW next to Shammas’s Dodge Challenger.
“If we ever had a problem, we would just do it ourselves instead of wasting money going to a dealership,” Shammas said. “If we wanted to customize, we’d do it together.”
Akrawi’s other love was basketball. He played for fun and idolized Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. He would defend Bryant to his friends who are LeBron James fans and believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is better.
The Lake Braddock Class of 2016 posted on Twitter that Akrawi “was a bright, spirited, and amazing member of our class, and he will surely be missed.”