Two high-profile DUI accidents serve as vivid reminders of just how destructive intoxicated driving can be. Two people are dead, two survivors are recovering from serious injuries, and all of their families are left in a world of hurt.
An intoxicated driver fatally struck a vacationing 11-year-old Danish girl walking with her family Monday night near Cannon Park, police said. This followed a head-on collision involving a drunk driver June 22 that nearly killed congressional candidate Katie Arrington and a friend. The wrong-way driver in that accident died of her injuries.
The young girl’s parents will no doubt be scarred forever. The 30-year-old driver, charged with reckless homicide and felony driving under the influence resulting in a death, faces a possible long prison sentence and a lifetime of regret. The fatal accident also leaves the city with a black eye, coming about the same time Travel + Leisure named Charleston its top U.S. destination for a sixth year in a row.
“This was preventable and never should have happened,” police Chief Luther Reynolds said at a news conference Tuesday alongside Mayor John Tecklenburg and other city officials. “I am very angry. … This hurts all of us.”
DUI arrests in Charleston have increased over the past three years from 279 in 2015 to 345 last year, but are on pace to decline this year with 125 logged so far. Chief Reynolds has vowed to renew efforts to keep impaired drivers off the road.
In the other wreck, the wrong-way driver was killed. Helen White, 69, of Ravenel, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit. Authorities said she was fleeing a hit-and-run accident just before the collision and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. A son told police his mother also had trouble seeing at night.
Ms. Arrington, a passenger in a car driven by her friend Jacqueline Goff, suffered multiple fractures, internal injuries and nearly bled to death in the aftermath.
“It changed me,” she said in an interview as she began her recovery. “You see life is fleeting right in front of your eyes.”
Ms. Goff also was seriously injured with multiple fractures and internal injuries.
Ms. Arrington, Ms. Goff and the girl, Selma Akguel, were innocents. The same could have happened to any of us.
But drinking and driving is a choice. The consequences are real. It’s never worth the risk.