Family, friends devastated after high school cheerleader killed in suspected DUI crash

Early Sunday morning, 16-year-old Caitlyn Pollock of Gwinnett County lost her life to, according to police, a drunk driver.
HOSCHTON, Ga. — The death of 16-year-old Gwinnett County student athlete Caitlyn Pollock in a car crash Sunday is unleashing an outpouring of grief from people across Metro Atlanta, and much of the rest of Georgia, who knew her and admired her and loved her.

Caitlyn Pollock was earning respect–and fans–as she took part in team cheer competitions statewide.

At about 1:30 Sunday morning, Caitlyn was riding in a vehicle with friends, in the front seat, when, according to Gwinnett County Police, the driver lost control and crashed trying to maneuver the curved ramp at Sugarloaf Parkway and Highway 316 in Dacula.

Everyone in the vehicle survived the crash except Caitlyn.

The driver, Kyle McDowell, 21, of Flowery Branch, now faces charges that include First Degree Vehicular Homicide and DUI.

“I say it to my kids all the time, one drink, you don’t get behind that wheel,” said Lori D’Adamio, a close friend of the Pollock family. “They’re strong people. They’re strong in their faith. But, I mean, they’re devastated…. Life is too precious, and Caitlyn’s was definitely taken way too soon.”

D’Adamio was speaking not only for Caitlyn’s parents, but also for countless people across the state who met Caitlyn during her cheer competitions for Mill Creek High School and for community cheer teams.

“Seven years old, full of spunk, tumbling all through my yard,” D’Adamio said, remembering Caitlyn as a child. “Cheer was her passion, and she grew up to be this beautiful, beautiful young lady that she is. That spunk grew with her. And that’s what made her so vibrant, and she had a contagious smile and laugh.”

D’Adamio said that, one day recently, Caitlyn’s mother was out on a shopping errand and Caitlyn found out where, and then followed her mom there, to surprise her.

“She just drove there and put a note on the car that said, ‘Mom, I love you’,” D’Adamio said. “That’s who Caitlyn was. And that’s how she treated her friends, her family, her mom. Her mom was her hero.”

D’Adamio has organized an online fundraiser to help Caitlyn’s family with funeral expenses.

She said Caitlyn’s mother is astounded at the outpouring of support coming from people she’d never known–people who knew Caitlyn.

“Her mom was telling me that she’s getting texts and calls from people in counties all over the state that knew Caitlyn,” D’Adamio said. “And her mom was like, ‘How did these people know my daughter?’ It’s because that’s how full of life Caitlyn was.”

Gwinnett County Police said the driver admitted to them at the scene of the crash that he’d been drinking alcohol.

McDowell was still in the hospital Monday night, being treated for injuries from the crash, and police expected that he would be booked into the Gwinnett County jail soon.

Monday, Caitlyn’s family was beginning to arrange the funeral service, and D’Adamio expected the service will be announced in the next day or two.

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