January 30, 2012-Fairfield, CA-a 42-year-old Sacramento woman was arrested in a deadly crash on I-80 near Fairfield early Sunday morning. Authorities are charging the woman with DUI and possession of a firearm.
Michelle Henry was operating a Buick Lucerne in the westbound lane of I-80 at a very high rate of speed early Sunday morning when she rear-ended a Ford Explorer. Both vehicles overturned, and the Explorer landed on its roof in the eastbound lane.
As one of the passengers, a 25-year-old Sacramento man, emerged from the vehicle and attempted to help another passenger, a Toyota struck the rear of the Explorer. The Explorer hit the man and threw him across the roadway into the westbound lanes, where he was killed. The driver of the Explorer was also killed in the fatal car accident.
Henry suffered minor injuries in the crash and was arrested for felony DUI and possession of a loaded firearm. Solano County sheriff’s authorities have not released any further information on pending charges or the identity of the two victims.
In view of this horrible tragedy, my heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to these victims’ families and friends.
DUI accidents have not significantly decreased over the past decade, despite a multitude of educational attempts to inform the public of the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetimes. According to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, a person is injured in an alcohol-related crash every minute.
In 2009, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents, two-third of which were drivers with a BAC, or blood alcohol content, of .08 or higher, according to Alcohol Alert.
What Happened In This Accident
It is unclear from the brief information released so far by authorities whether Ms. Henry was fleeing from pursuit, simply driving too fast, or had some other motivation for speeding. The presence of a loaded gun in her car is a puzzling bit of evidence which will, hopefully, be explained as the police continue their investigation.
What is certain is that two people needlessly lost their lives in this terrible accident. It is also clear that one passenger was alive at the point of impact, as he emerged from the car and tried to render aid to the other passenger. Information on the Toyota which struck the Explorer is scant, so it remains unknown if charges will be filed against that driver.
There are a variety of liability issues in play in this situation. First, the drunk driver can be held liable for the accident which killed the driver of the Explorer, although why she was speeding may also have an impact on the liability issue. If she was fleeing pursuit from police in a dangerous high-speed chase, it is possible that liability could also attach to a local police authority, if the chase was deemed to be unnecessary and unsafe. However, there is no evidence yet that this is the case.
The second “phase” of this accident brings up another liability question. Was the driver of the second vehicle liable for the accident which killed the second passenger? The answer to this question will depend on the issues surrounding that collision, which are unclear at this time.
A professional personal injury attorney should definitely examine the facts of the accident as they become available to help make a liability determination.