Tuesday crash kills young Island woman
Brandy Marie Gibson struggled with adversity much of her young adult life but never let trouble dampen her spirit, friends said yesterday. Just after 10:30 pm Tuesday night, the 20-year-old who aspired to become a teacher died in a two-car crash involving an unlicensed operator. The crash left two other people seriously injured.
Ms. Gibson was traveling westbound from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven in a 1993 Oldsmobile, when she struck a delivery van owned by Humphreys bakery and operated by Francellyo C. Dias, 25, of Vineyard Haven, according to a press release issued by the Oak Bluffs police yesterday.
Mr. Dias and his passenger, Lessa Keila of Vineyard Haven, were transferred by air to Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston. Ms. Gibson was pronounced dead at Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
Police, fire and emergency medical personnel responded to the accident scene at the intersection of County Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near Jardin Mahoney, a garden center.
Police said Mr. Dias was unable to present a valid driver's license at the scene. Police plan to charge Mr. Dias with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Police will also cite Humphreys, a popular sandwich and bakery company with shops in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven, with allowing an unlicensed operator to operate a motor vehicle, according to the press release.
The Massachusetts State Police accident reconstruction team visited the scene of the accident yesterday afternoon. The Oak Bluffs police and State Police continue to investigate the accident.
Additional charges may be filed depending on the findings of the reconstruction team and the medical examiner's report, police report.
In written comments, Oak Bluffs police officer James Morse said Mr. Dias was turning left from County Road onto Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in the direction of Edgartown. "Ms. Gibson's vehicle struck the driver's side front wheel of the delivery van with sufficient force to push both vehicles back some 50 plus feet," he wrote. "The exact speed of Ms. Gibson's vehicle has yet to be determined. No one involved in the accident was wearing a seat belt. If the persons involved in this crash had been properly restrained the injuries would have been significantly reduced, and Ms. Gibson would most likely be alive today. The simple fact is that seat belts save lives."
According to court records, Mr. Dias, a native of Brazil, has appeared in Edgartown District Court on three previous occasions for motor vehicle violations.
On July 21 and again on Aug. 3, 2006, he was found not responsible for operating an unregistered motor vehicle. A charge of operating an uninsured motor vehicle was continued without finding, and he was fined $50.
On March 1, 2007, a charge of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle was dismissed upon payment of $100 court costs and completion of eight hours of community service. He was found responsible for a marked lanes violation and told to pay a $100 fine.
His employer, Michael Diaz, the owner of Humphreys, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. According to a relative who answered the phone at his home, he traveled to Boston early yesterday to be with Mr. Dias.
Those whose lives were touched by Ms. Gibson, a 2004 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, remembered her in the wake of the tragedy as a young woman who didn't catch many breaks in life, but who managed to rise above her circumstances through hard work and determination.
Friends said she came to Martha's Vineyard as an infant, to live with her grandmother, Carol Berryman, who died in August 2006. After her grandmother died, she moved in with Mary Vivian in Vineyard Haven, a school nurse who was one of many Islanders who took an interest in the precocious girl, who seemed to impress almost everyone she met.
"She was a fighter," said Denim Bettencourt, her younger sister. "She never had it easy. That was the best thing, she still did what she knew was right. She tried hard at everything."
Other family members gathered Wednesday at the home of Stephanie E. Berryman-DePaula, Ms. Gibson's aunt.
"She was full of energy," said Ms. Berryman-DePaula. "Beautiful girl, a heart of gold, could be a bit of a drama queen."
Ms. Gibson counted Lily Morris as a lifelong friend. The two girls attended the Tisbury School and remained close throughout high school and beyond.
Georgia Morris, speaking from Boston where she went Wednesday to break the tragic news to her daughter, Lily, said Ms. Gibson often accompanied the family on a yearly camping trip.
"She was just a beautiful person," said Ms. Morris. "She didn't let things destroy her, or beat her. She basically worked her way through junior high and high school, and accepted that."
Ms. Gibson worked at many jobs around the Island, often holding down two or three at once. Most recently she worked as a substitute teacher at elementary schools in the down-Island towns.
Friends said Ms. Gibson was inspired to be a teacher and was making plans go to college for a teaching degree. "She would have been a terrific counselor and teacher, because she understood the difficulties of growing up without support," said Georgia Morris. "She was very happy with her teaching; she was very encouraged by it."
Educators were among the most influential people in Ms. Gibson's life. Maureen Deloach was principal of the Tisbury School when Ms. Gibson was a student there.
Ms. Deloach remembers her as a girl who always wanted to help, eager to raise the flag in front of the school, and make the school's afternoon announcements, even returning to the school during the summer to help sort mail. She earned the principal's award when she was in eighth grade.
"She was, from the beginning, a very special young lady. She always popped in and out of the office a lot to see me, wanted to help with things. We developed a special relationship. She exemplified how a child can have adversity as they grow, and they can have hard things happen to them, and yet they can maintain a positive attitude, and always bounce back."