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Lawrence Egerton
Lawrence Egerton
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Tangled web of underage drinking and DWI leaves two dead

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A tragic high-speed crash in Greensboro illustrates several of the liabilities that can arise from underage drinking and driving while impaired.

Marcial Aragon Colmillo and Juan Carlos Cortes were killed when a drunken driver crashed head-on into their truck on West Market Street in Greensboro, North Carolina, police said. The accident took place at around 2:15 a.m. on Friday, March 25, 1011.

Ian Michael Smith, age 20, of Archdale, was charged with driving while impaired and driving after consuming alcohol while under the age of 21, according to a report by the News & Record newspaper of Greensboro.

One passenger in the truck, Octavio Landin Acosta, survived. Amanda Leigh Tompkins, who was in the car with Smith, also survived.

According to police, the accident unfolded as follows:

A Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by Smith turned west onto Market Street from South Elm Street. Sgt. T.K. Brown observed the car going down the street the wrong way, and began to follow with his police lights on, but the car drove off at a high rate of speed. He followed for a while, perhaps in pursuit or to warn oncoming drivers of a dangerous approaching vehicle, but soon gave up the action, possibly as being too dangerous.

The pickup truck, driven by Colmillo, drove onto Market Street from Aycock Street.

Both surviving passengers were treated at the hospital and released. Smith was admitted to the hospital.

The possible civil liabilities created by this incident are complicated – and they don’t end with causes against the driver. Smith and his passenger were heading away from the South Elm Street area – a part of the city with several nightclubs close by. They were leaving the area at about 2 in the morning, closing time for the sale of alcohol.

Dram shop liability laws hold sellers of alcohol responsible for harm that intoxicated patrons cause other people, and sometimes the harm that the intoxicated person causes to himself. The mangled wreckage of the two vehicles – which crashed in a 35-mph zone – indicates a tremendous rate of speed, which is often evidence of reckless behavior fueled by drinking.

Sellers are also liable for selling alcohol to underage individuals. In this case, someone, or some business, is most assuredly liable for providing alcohol to a person who is underage.

To complicate matters more, it’s no rare thing for people underage to get false identification. The individual providing that fake I.D. can be held responsible as well.

So, what might be one reasonable scenario of the web of people contributing to these deaths and injuries? It’s conceivable that the driver, a nightclub, a bartender, and somebody who sells fake I.D.’s could all have had a hand in the series of events that led up to this deadly crash.

What a tangled mess alcohol can make when young people drink and get behind the wheel.