Driver Consumed Alcohol Before Crash

Driver Consumed Alcohol Before Crash

June crash on Beltway kills four.

Elaine Minette Thackston, 20, had some alcohol and marijuana in her body when her Volkswagen convertible collided with a tractor trailer on the Beltway resulting in a quadruple fatality the night of June 14.

Thackston, a George Mason University student from New Hampshire, was driving three West Potomac High School graduates and one current West Potomac student to Love nightclub in Washington, D.C. when the crash occurred near the Beltway’s Interstate 95 interchange two months ago.

During the course of the accident, the car flipped and the trailer partially rolled over the vehicle, according to Sgt. Terry Licklider, a public information officer for the Virginia State Police.

Three of the passengers – Thackson, Sarah Carter and Lydia Petkoff – were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the Volkswagen. Two others – Renee Shelkin and Jena Rexroat – were not ejected but it is not clear whether they were strapped into the vehicle, said Licklider.

Rexroat, 17, was the only survivor. The other four women died at the scene. Shelkin and Petkoff, both 18, had graduated from high school only a few hours before the collision. Carter, a George Mason University student, had graduated from West Potomac in 2005.

Witnesses to the crash said Thackston cut in front of the tractor-trailer and police have concluded that she made an “improper, unsafe lane change,” according to Licklider. Autopsy and toxicology reports also show the driver had some alcohol and marijuana in her body at the time of the crash, though the police will not release to the public how much of the narcotics were involved.

In an e-mail Aug. 14, Thackston’s father, Dick, said he had not seen the police report including the autopsy and toxicology test results yet.

“I have no new information. I was told I would have to write to the Virginia State Police and mail $6 in certified funds to receive a copy of the report. No faxing, no credit cards or I could stop by and pick up a copy,” wrote Dick Thackston, who lives in New Hampshire.

Police reports only reveal that Thackston’s blood alcohol content exceeded the level of 0.02, the amount allowed for a person under 21 years old to drive legally. Drivers over 21 are allowed to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08. The police will not say whether Thackston’s alcohol level exceeded level allowed by someone of legal drinking age.

“We don’t usually give out [blood alcohol content] of a driver involved. That is not something we have normally done in the past,” said Licklider.

Of the amount of marijuana in Thackston’s system, Licklider could only say it was a “small amount.” He would not say whether the vehicle’s passengers had consumed alcohol or drugs because “they were not operating a motor vehicle.”

The police did find a half-empty bottle of vodka, a six-pack of bottled beer and a “very, very small amount” of marijuana in the vehicle at the crime scene.

Officials are still trying to find the person who may have provided Thackston and the other young women with the alcohol and drugs found in the car, said Licklider.

If found, the person or people who supplied the alcohol could be charged with a misdemeanor and have their license suspended for one year. A suspect found guilty would have to pay $2,500 or spend one year in jail, said Licklider.

When asked if he wanted to know who gave his daughter the drugs and alcohol found in her body, Thackston replied through e-mail that the question was “too complex to answer.”

He also said he hoped members of the public had learned to avoid trucks and be aware of strange or changing traffic situations when driving.