ROCK HILL, S.C. - Winthrop University Junior Darnell Jamaal Watson died in a one-vehicle accident early Saturday morning on I-77 in Chester County, according to authorities.
Watson was driving northbound in an SUV when the tire blew around 4:30 a.m., causing the vehicle to flip repeatedly. The native of Columbia was ejected and died from his injuries. Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker told The Herald newspaper that Watson was not wearing a seatbelt.
A passenger in the SUV and fellow Winthrop student, Kenneth J’Van Stover of Camden, S.C., was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries.
Winthrop University officials are honoring Watson’s memory this week with a memory book set up in the gymnasium at the West Center to be given to his family. Black ribbons are available for students, faculty and staff to wear.
Watson, a sport management major, loved basketball and supported the Eagles by showing up for most men’s basketball games.
Stevie Chepko, chair of the Department of Physical Education, Sport and Human Performance, said about Watson: "He had a quiet confidence that drew the attention of his teacher. He did not speak often in class, but when he did speak – everyone listened. He epitomized the best of the sport management program – hard working, responsible, but most of all a caring student who always was willing to lend a helping hand. He will be missed by his classmates and the faculty members who came to value his smile, sly sense of humor and his giving nature. He will live on in our hearts and memories."
On Monday, Sept. 28, there will be an on-campus memorial held at 8:30 p.m. in Kinard Auditorium. The memorial will offer a chance for all students to come and reflect on the life of Darnell Watson and their memories of him. The Rev. Trevor Beauford will provide encouraging words and a prayer, and the Winthrop University Vision of Prayze Gospel Choir will sing. A banner will be available for students to sign in memory of Darnell, and the banner will be given to his family at Wednesday's visitation in Columbia.
Visitation services will be held Wednesday, Sept. 30, from 6-8 p.m. at Leevys Funeral Home, 1831 Taylor St. in Columbia. DJ’s memorial service is planned for Thursday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. at First Northeast Baptist Church, 311 Sparkleberry Ln. in Columbia.
Condolences may be sent to Mr. and Mrs. Darnell Watson at the following address: 3 Barnley Ct., Columbia, SC 29229.