Three persons have all been charged in one way or another with the fatal accident that tragically took the lives of two bicyclists and injured two more last weekend on Route 1 in Hampton NH.
Driving impaired, distracted
Darrieann Hess, who had been stopped less than eight hours before for speeding in Hampton and who lives in nearby Seabrook, NH, faces a variety of charges, including unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, operating while distracted and now drug charges, has already been arraigned in Hampton, NH District Court where she was held in $50,000 cash bail.
Hess’ arraignment came via videoconference from the county lockup where she was being held. Gordon Wiley, a friend of one of bicyclist Elise Bouchard, one of the two bicyclists killed during the 100-mile coastal ride – the Tri-State Seacoast Century ride – told The Boston: “I wanted to make sure she stays where she is.” Wiley had learned of the high bond posted in the accident.
Though it never has been answered by Hess was allowed to drive away from the first traffic stop around 1 a.m. 9/22 (Sunday), Hess continued driving her fiancé’s 2002 Honda Civic. Her fiancé, Scott Martin of Seabrook, has been summoned to court to face charges of allowing an unlicensed driver to drive the front-drive Civic, in Hampton District Court on 10/23.
Meantime, police charged Cindy Sheppard of Hampton with illegally supplying a controlled substance – the painkiller fentanyl – to Hess during her race around the roads of southern seacoast New Hampshire in the front-drive car. She has also been charged with allowing an improper person to operate a motor vehicle.
Public defender comments
Since the Monday arraignment this week, Hess public defender Anthony Karo, who noted Hess is grief-stricken and “traumatized,” also noted that his client lives in Seabrook and is not a flight risk, a sympathy not shared by Hampton Police Prosecutor Barry Newcomb, who fears “she is a risk to public safety.”
An eyewitness to the horrific crash on the Route 1A bridge in Hampton, former NH State Police Maj. David Kelley, who said that he believed a high-speed chase, was underway when he saw the Honda crest the top of the bridge on the southbound lane at high speed. He told reporters he expected to see NH cruisers following her, but did not. Kelley also noted that when he asked Hess, whose car swerved into the northbound lane that was crowded with bicyclists before swerving south again, having a small accident where the Civic came to rest, what happened said she had taken her eyes off the road as she was distracted for a moment and when she looked up she saw the bicycles.
(Hess may also have been the victim of a problem many first-time front-drive vehicle drivers face, understeer – information supplied by author Boston Auto Examiner Marc Stern. With about 69 percent of the weight of the vehicle over the front wheels which are charged with not only handling the stresses of driving the car straight ahead under weight while also fighting any effort to turn them, many unskilled drivers often make the mistake of letting the vehicle handle the problem by not moving the wheel or, if they pull the wheel, the don’t realize that there’s only one line the understeering vehicle will take and that is straight toward the destination of the nose – understeer can be compared to trying to make a surveyors plumb, which is weighted heavily so it will always present a straight line take a turn from the straight line if you throw it. It won’t happen and neither will it happen in a front-drive vehicle until the polar moment (tipping point where torsional forces change) is reached by the steering wheel and the front wheels take a new course).
2nd suspect charged
Today, Sheppard was to face arraignment on the drug charges, in the accident that not only killed Bouchard of Danvers, MA, but also Pamela Wells of South Hamilton, MA. Friends, they had been practicing for the long-haul bike ride together. Their friends Margo Heigh of Danvers, MA and Uwe Uhmeyer of Essex, MA, also riders, were injured seriously in the crash.
Hess, according to Rockingham New Hampshire District Atty. James Reams, said Hess was speeding on Route 1A before weaving into the bicyclists.
Boston.com, WBZ-TV, the CBS outlet in Boston, and The Boston Globe, also speculated that texting may have been another cause of the crash.
(From an automotive standpoint, if a driver is not used to a vehicle and is unlicensed, it is highly unlikely that she would have known of all the little quirks drivers deal with daily in standard front-drive cars. Front-drive is a great packaging tool that allows a manufacturer to shrink the size of a vehicle physically, while keeping the interior dimensions about the same. Unfortunately, front-drive exhibits a set of bad habits (rightward axle tramp on hard acceleration where the vehicle jumps right and can pull the wheel out of an inexperienced driver’s hands, as well as trailing throttle oversteer where letting off the accelerator too quickly in a decreasing radius turn, causes the rear and front end to swap, leading to accidents that not even anti-lock braking can handle (source: Marc Stern, Boston Auto/Truck Examiner and auto columnist and observer for half-a-century having experience more than 4,500 test drives of front-, rear-, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles.)