CLEAR BROOK — As she stood on her front lawn near the site where a fatal police pursuit ended hours earlier, Hopewell Road resident Linda Bugg looked out at the culvert where victim Zachary Carter was found.
“What a heavy price for a U-turn,” Bugg said.
Carter, 21, of Clear Brook, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. He was a passenger in the vehicle. Jeremy Andrew Nichols, who has been identified as the driver, was hospitalized at Winchester Medical Center. His condition could not be ascertained on Monday evening. Nichols, 22, of Loudoun Street in Winchester, faces eluding, reckless driving and driving while intoxicated charges.
In a search warrant affidavit filed Monday in Winchester Circuit Court, Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicholas Dempsey wrote that he began following a car with no lights around the vehicle tag. Dempsey said the driver then made an illegal U-turn and sped away.
According to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Warren W. Gosnell, Nichols made a U-turn on Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11) near Yardmaster Court about 2:25 a.m. Monday, then turned onto Hopewell Road with Dempsey following him.
Dempsey wrote in the affidavit that after he activated his lights and sirens, the driver accelerated above 100 mph. The area speed limit on Hopewell Road is 45 mph. Gosnell said Dempsey was about a tenth of a mile behind Nichols when Nichols lost control of the 2011 Chrysler 300 he was driving and veered left, just past the intersection of Hopewell Road and DeHaven Drive. The westbound vehicle narrowly missed the mailbox at 234 Hopewell Road and traveled about 50 yards before striking a utility pole. The driver lost control on a windy, downhill stretch of road.
“Evidently, he didn’t know the road,” said Russell Reading of 234 Hopewell Road as he collected debris from the wrecked Chrysler in a bucket on Monday afternoon. “You can’t drive that fast.”
Gosnell said the Chrysler went airborne and rolled over multiple times and then struck a second pole about 50 yards west of the first pole. The crumpled car then caromed north and came to rest on its wheels in the roadway on the double yellow line in front of Bugg’s home at 216 Hopewell Road.
“It was crushed like it had already been in a crusher,” said Frances Russell, who lives at 196 Hopewell Road. “We’re still picking up car parts.”
Dempsey wrote that Nichols — who is accused of driving while intoxicated on March 15 in Warren County — admitted to driving drunk. “[There was] a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from [Nichols] and beer bottles located in and around the vehicle,” Dempsey said.
Gosnell said in an email that Nichols may have fled because he didn’t want to be arrested on a second drunken driving charge. Gosnell said Dempsey has an obligation to try to arrest drunken drivers and followed the Sheriff’s Office’s pursuit policy.
“This wasn’t a typical pursuit with a police car traveling directly behind a suspect with lights and sirens for miles, dodging in and out of traffic, giving and getting updates on the radio from a supervisor or other units,” Gosnell said. “This was an event that lasted approximately two to three minutes before the suspect’s tragic error in judgment cost his passenger his life and it saddens us all at the FCSO that we couldn’t prevent that from happening.”
The speed at which the deputy was traveling reached about 90 miles per hour, but he was never able to catch up with the vehicle, Gosnell said.