A wrong-way drunk driver has been charged after causing a fatal head-on collision on the interstate near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The deadly two-vehicle crash happened shortly after 2 am on November 4, 2017, as the innocent driver’s car approached the Birdneck Road exits from I-264.
According to police, a woman in a Cadillac got onto the wrong side of I-264 after leaving a nightclub on 21st Street. She later admitted that she had consumed as many as four mixed drinks during the hour before taking the wheel. A blood alcohol concentration test performed following her arrest registered a BAC of 0.112. One explanation for that value, which far exceeds the legal limit of 0.08, is that the at-fault driver is a little person who weighs just 77 pounds. Before moving to Virginia Beach, she appeared on the reality show Little Women: Atlanta.
The driver of the other car died from his injuries despite being transported to Virginia Beach General Hospital. Multiple news reports identified the deceased victim as a 29-year-old petty officer, second class in the U.S. Coast Guard. A nondrinker himself, he had been heading to the Oceanfront to play designated driver for his wife and her friends, who had been celebrating the wife’s birthday.
The man’s family decided to take him off life support when they learned that he likely would not regain consciousness from injuries that included serious damage to his spinal cord, extreme brain swelling, extensive internal injuries and multiple broken bones. This case, tragically, illustrates that deadly damage wrong-way drivers traveling at interstate speeds can inflict on innocent victims.
Police have filed a preliminary charge for DWI maiming. As spelled out in section 18.2-51.4 of the Virginia Code, accusing a driver of this offense requires determining that the person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and operating “in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life [and] unintentionally cause[d] the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment.”
Completely avoidable tragedies like this one make it a point of pride for my Virginia Beach-based personal injury and wrongful death colleagues and I to say we only sue drunk and drugged drivers. We never defend a person accused of DWI because we know that preventing the alleged offense is as simple as setting down the keys after picking up a bottle. Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the Coast Guard petty officer who lost his life so needlessly on I-264. We also hope that everyone who learns of this ultimately avoidable loss of life takes to heart the message to never drive while intoxicated.