If anyone talked with Warren County sheriff's deputy Andy McDowell long enough, the conversation invariably turned to his two sons, friends said. On Wednesday, McDowell lost both sons in separate traffic crashes within a few minutes.
Rory McDowell, 23, and Cory McDowell, 21, were pronounced dead early Wednesday a couple of miles from the home they shared with their father in southern Kentucky.
Authorities said the father had always doted on his sons. "That's all he talked about was his boys," said sheriff's department Sgt. Tim Meyer. "He lived for his boys."
Andy McDowell was not on duty at the time but was taken to Rory's crash. He later was driven past Cory's fiery crash, not knowing his younger son was involved in it.
"You take the most unimaginable hell that a parent could be told and double that," Warren County Deputy Coroner Dwayne Lawrence said.
The father told authorities he had been talking with Rory McDowell on cell phones about the time of the crash, said Capt. Brent Brown with the Warren County sheriff's department. Brown said that might have been a factor in the crash, as well as excessive speed on a narrow road.
The brothers were about five miles apart when they were pronounced dead at the crash sites, Lawrence said. Both died of massive trauma. The crashes remained under investigation, and authorities didn't know whether Cory was aware his brother had been in a crash.
"It's going to be a mystery," Lawrence said.
The brothers didn't have any other siblings, he said.
Rory McDowell lost control of his pickup truck coming out of a curve and the vehicle struck a tree shortly before 1:30 a.m., authorities said.
There was no visible sign of alcohol involved, Brown said.
About 15 minutes later, Cory McDowell's 1984 Porsche veered off another rural road, went into a spin, struck a tree and burst into flames, authorities said.
Kentucky State Police said no cause had been found in Cory McDowell's crash.
Stephanie Smith, the brothers' forensics coach at Warren East High School, on Wednesday remembered them as "extremely energetic and creative."
"They were both very funny," she said. "Their eyes would just shine with energy and just that little boyish charm they both had."
Rory McDowell nearly qualified for the national forensics competition, she said.
Smith, who teaches oral communication and English, said the brothers were close.
"I'm heartsick," she said.
Andy McDowell's colleagues at the sheriff's department also were grief stricken.
"We've actually lost family members ourselves with the boys because we're a close-knit group," Meyer said.
Rory McDowell had attended a vocational school in Bowling Green and worked for a local fence company. Cory McDowell had been an honors student at Western Kentucky University and also worked at an auto parts store.
Survivors also include their mother, Rose Marie McDowell. Their funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at J.C. Kirby & Son Broadway Chapel, with burial in Shadyland Church of Christ Cemetery.
Associated Press Writer Thomas S. Watson contributed to this report.