Speed a factor in the deadly Jan. 29 crash
Brandy Marie Gibson was driving at more than twice the 35 mile per hour posted speed limit when her 1993 Oldsmobile hit a slow-moving delivery van making a left turn at the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and County Road in Oak Bluffs. Ms. Gibson, 20, died as a result of the two-vehicle accident on Jan. 29.
These conclusions are contained in a press statement released by Oak Bluffs police yesterday. The statement reports on the preliminary findings of a State Police accident reconstruction team that was asked to investigate the crash.
Francellyo C. Dias, 25, who was driving the van owned by Humphreys bakery, and his passenger, Lessa Keila of Vineyard Haven, were transferred by air to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. They have both since been released.
In an initial press statement, released Jan. 30, Oak Bluffs police officer James Morse said that 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 or more feet. No one involved in the accident was wearing a seat belt, police said.
Traveling from Edgartown toward Vineyard Haven, approaching County Road along the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, the road dips and then follows a gentle rise that limits a long-distance view west along the road toward the County Road intersection.
According to the police report released yesterday, the investigation revealed that Ms. Gibson was driving her sedan from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven at a speed of 82 miles per hour (mph) as she approached the intersection.
The police press release explained that Ms. Gibson's vehicle "laid down a single skid mark some 67.10 feet long. This reduced her vehicle's speed to 73 mph, when it impacted with the 1999 Chevrolet delivery van operated by Mr. Dias. The delivery van, owned by Humphrey's Inc. was determined to be traveling at 9 mph."
The press release quotes officer James Morse. "Mr. Dias' speed is consistent with someone who was starting or turning from a stop." In a telephone interview, Lt. Tim Williamson said that the investigation also revealed that Mr. Dias would have had approximately 2.6 seconds to react.
Oak Bluffs police said they are waiting for medical records and a toxicology report before they complete their investigation.
Mr. Dias, a native of Brazil, did not have a valid Massachusetts driver's license, police said. They plan to charge him with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Lieutenant Williamson confirmed that police issued a citation to Humphreys, a popular sandwich and bakery company with shops in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven, charging the company's owners with allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a motor vehicle.
Ms. Gibson, a 2004 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, was remembered at a service presided over by pastor Marcia Buckley on Feb. 3 at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home.
Reached late yesterday by telephone, Michael Diaz, the owner of Humphreys, said he preferred not to comment on the latest police findings. Mr. Diaz said he visited his employees in the hospital immediately after the accident and has been assisting the couple with their recovery. He said they were very sad when they learned that Ms. Gibson died.
The couple has returned to the Vineyard where they are recovering from both "the physical and emotional pain of the accident," Mr. Diaz said. Mr. Dias will be in a neck brace for several more months. Ms. Keila is able to walk, but her injuries prevent her from performing any normal household chores, he said.
"These were just two innocent people riding down the road, just as anyone would be, and this was a horrible tragedy," said Mr. Diaz. "It certainly wasn't anything they brought upon themselves."
Mr. Diaz said he did not hire Francellyo Dias to drive and always assumed, based on the fact that he was driving to work, that he had a driver's license. He said Mr. Dias was a hard-working, trustworthy employee who was always willing to do more than was needed. The night of the accident offered an example, he said. "He was driving just because he was filling in for someone's vacation time," he said.
Because the accident involved an unlicensed Brazilian driver, as reported in both Island newspapers, it ignited a wide-ranging and at times emotional discussion of immigration issues that are heavily debated nationally and in the current presidential primary contests.
At first, some readers may have been confused by contradictions between the accounts in The Times, which reported that Ms. Gibson's car hit the van, and in the Vineyard Gazette, which reported that the van hit the car, a mistake the Edgartown newspaper followed with a correction in its next published edition.
The Times website comment feature, which allows readers to comment on issues raised in published stories, hosted several hundred posts, most of them about the immigration issues, and the newspaper received several complaints from readers and web visitors who objected to the tone of some of the posts and asked that the comment feature be suspended.
"We were surprised by the volume of posts concerning the accident and disappointed at the tone used by many writers," Times editor Doug Cabral said this week. "We took several steps to moderate the debate, first urging participants to avoid nasty, abusive language, then removing the worst of the posts, and finally blocking posts from one of the worst offenders. This week we've put new rules in place that we think will improve the quality of the comments in general. But, we'll see. We have no intention of editing the comment feature to prohibit certain points of view."