The 19-year-old woman who drove a car into a group of bicyclists — killing two and injuring two others — as they participated in an organized bike ride on Saturday is sitting in a jail cell in New Hampshire.
Some are saying that if the police had put her in jail when they stopped her for speeding and driving without a license 8 hours before the fatal crash, then the tragedy on the coastal New Hampshire bridge never would have taken place.
Meanwhile, police made a second arrest on Wednesday that sheds more light on the case.
Hampton Police said they arrested Cindy Sheppard, 48, of Hampton, NH, for selling a controlled substance and for allowing an improper person to operate a vehicle.
Police said that sometime after 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sheppard supplied Darriean Hess with a controlled drug and, shortly after 8 a.m., allowed Hess to drive the 2002 Honda, knowing she was not licensed to drive. That Honda had been driven by Hess when she was first stopped by police and later when she plowed into the bicyclists.
More details are expected to emerge when Sheppard is arraigned on Thursday.
Hampton, NH, police on Tuesday charged Darriean Hess of Seabrook with two counts of negligent homicide and two counts of second degree assault in connection with the head-on collision into bicyclists on the Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century on Saturday.
SeacoastOnline.com website says each charge carries a sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison as well as a $4,000 fine.
Court documents include an affidavit from a witness who happens to be a retired state police officer. He said that Hess admitted to him after the crash of “taking her eyes off the road for a few seconds.”
Witnesses said the car was heading south on the bridge and crossed into the northbound lane and struck the cyclists who were at the right side of the road. The car continued along the curb and sidewalk until it crossed back into the southbound lane and finally stopped after hitting some signs.
The driver is being held on $50,000 bail, SeacoastOnline reports.
Amazingly, the crash occurred in the same spot where a police officer pulled over Hess for speeding 59 mph in a 30 mph zone shortly after midnight, just eight hours before the crash. Hess also admitted to driving without a license.
Police wrote up a couple of tickets, released the 2002 Honda to her friend, and sent her on her way. The car, which belongs to a friend, was the same one she was driving in the crash 8 hours later.
Attempt to explain
Those facts have many wondering whether police could have done more to prevent the tragedy. A friend of one of the victims said it was “ridiculous” that Hess could get back behind the wheel hours after she had been ticketed for speeding and driving without a license.
At a press conference on Tuesday, police went to great lengths to explain why they hadn’t detained Hess at the time.
Questioned about why Hess was not arrested after speeding and driving without a license, the district attorney said:
“The Legislature so far has said it’s a violation (to drive without) a driver’s license, and it becomes a crime if you drive after your license has been suspended. That’s the cards that we’re dealt and those are the ones we’re playing with today. The Legislature can take a look at that if they choose.”
Further, Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said:
“The officer at that time had no way of knowing (what would happen in the future), and he took all appropriate actions. We and all our investigators are diligently investigating this, we will continue to do so. We’re taking our time, being methodical and trying to do everything properly.”
Century bike ride
The deceased were identified as Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass. Treated at area hospitals for injuries were Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, Mass., and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, Mass.
Organizers of the annual bicycle tour into New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts have posted photos from a memorial set up friends of the victims.
Needless to say, the entire bicycling community is shocked by such a horrific and needless crash caused by a motorist who should never have been driving. The crash, not an accident, is still making headline news as the driver has been charged with two counts of negligent homicide and two counts second degree assault, all felonies under NH law. Police say excessive speed and inattention while driving contributed to the accident, causing the driver to cross the double yellow line and hit the bicyclists. Additional charges are expected to be filed.
Related: Patch reports that community is stepping up to support family of Pamela Wells.