The family of Dunkirk teenager Rachael Campbell is getting ready to sue the Calvert County sheriff’s office for her Maryland wrongful death. The 18-year-old died on July 24 when the 1997 Buick LeSabre she was riding was hit by a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria cruiser at Route 4 and Apple Way.
The driver of the cruiser, Deputy C. Wayne Wells, was headed to an emergency domestic violence call when the deadly Maryland car crash happened. His vehicle was moving at a speed of 110 mph in a 45 mph zone and his sirens and lights were activated.
Campbell was attempting to cross two northbound lanes when Wells struck her vehicle. Campbell’s vehicle caught on fire and she died at the Maryland auto crash site. Wells sustained life-threatening injuries during the traffic accident but was later released from the hospital.
Per a report issued by Anne Arundel County police Cpl. C. Gregory Russell, the police officer’s car was traveling at a speed of 83 to 87 mph at the point of impact, while the teenager’s car was moving at about 21 mph. The report notes that an untrained person can have a very hard—if not impossible—time determining how fast a vehicle approaching from a lengthy distance might be going.
Experts say the Campbell probably had half a second to see the police car as it approached. Calvert County’s state’s attorney, Laura L. Martin, said the teenager may not have realized that the approaching vehicle was a police car in an emergency situation. Also, even though the vehicle’s siren was on, it may not have been audible to oncoming traffic.
Martin noted that while Russell may have been distracted by the emergency situation he was driving to, the police officer’s speed was still “unreasonable.” She determined that deputy’s actions were not at the level of gross negligence that manslaughter charges were necessary. Martin also said that Campbell was not at fault.
Meantime, the Calvert County Sheriff’s office doesn’t intend to file criminal charges against Wells, who was rushing to an emergency situation. The department, however, will review current policy to prevent such deadly accidents from happening in the future.
The wrongful death lawyer for Campbell’s parents, however, say that if Wells stayed in his lane and had driven at a reasonable speed, he would have avoided striking the teenager’s car.
It is the responsibility of police officers to drive their vehicles safely—whether they are headed to a particular incident or pursuing a suspect. Unfortunately, there have been incidents involving innocent bystanders who were seriously injured or killed in a traffic accident because a police car or ambulance was going too fast.
In certain cases, an investigation into the incident might lead to criminal charges against the police officer who was driving the vehicle. Even if that doesn’t happen, however, you still may have grounds for filing a Maryland wrongful death case.
Family to Sue Sheriff’s Office In Teenager’s Fatal Crash, The Washington Post, September 13, 2009
Teen killed in Dunkirk auto accident with police cruiser, Calvert News, July 27, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Calvert County Sheriff’s Department