Truck driver had fraudulent license Crash killed woman, injured son

May 04, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer Staff writer Darren M. Allen contributed to this article.

The driver of a truck involved in an accident that killed a Columbia woman last week lied about his identity after the accident and was using a fraudulent driver's license, Howard County police said.

Gary Bernstein, 37, of Finksburg in Carroll County, was charged with manslaughter and 16 other counts Sunday in connection with Thursday's accident. Bernstein's license had been suspended and he had obtained another driver's license by using a false name, police said. The brakes on his dump truck had been faulty for some time, police said.

Suzanne Denise Bice, 43, who lived in Owen Brown, died at the scene. Her son, Phillip Bice, 12, was listed in critical but stable condition last night at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Bernstein's license was suspended in 1989, an MVA spokeswoman said. He is also on probation until next year for a 1991 Carroll drug possession conviction, Carroll County District Court records show. The details of the conviction were not available yesterday.

In June 1988, Bernstein was charged with driving while intoxicated, negligent driving and violating conditions of his restricted license. An alcohol restriction was placed on his driver's license in September 1987, records show.

In a plea agreement on Feb. 8, 1989, Bernstein was convicted of driving under the influence, a less-serious charge than DWI, by Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. Prosecutors dropped the other two charges against him then.

Bernstein was given three years' probation in that case, records show.

State Motor Vehicle Administration records show that Bernstein was charged with alcohol violations in 1980 and 1982. His driver's license was suspended from 1982 until 1987, the records show.

Thursday's accident did not involve alcohol, police said.

The collision occurred about 3:40 p.m. at Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road, police said. Bernstein's truck, which is registered to his wife, Martine Bernstein, was heading east on Route 175. As he approached Thunder Hill Road, he ran the red light, and struck a Toyota Camry, police said.

The dump truck continued, striking Ms. Bice's Subaru, which was northbound on Thunder Hill Road, police said. The dump truck pushed the Subaru across the concrete median strip and into a Nissan Maxima, which was stopped in the left turn lane on Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road. The dump truck then crashed through a guardrail, police said. The drivers of the Toyota and Nissan were not seriously injured.

When police contacted Bernstein at the scene, he said his name was David Bernstein, police said. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

After an investigation, police said they learned that Bernstein had a birth certificate in the name of David Bernstein, and that his license had been revoked.

"He was a terrible driver," said Lisa Shenkle, director for the Motor Vehicle Administration. "He had a record that reflects numerous violations and several of which were alcohol-related."

He tried many times between 1989 and 1991 to get his Class C license reinstated, Ms. Shenkle said.

Then he fraudulently gave MVA clerks a birth certificate to get a commercial driver's license, which he received in February, Ms. Shenkle said.

His documentation looked authentic and it didn't catch the attention of clerks trained to detect fraudulent documents, she said.

"It's really a shame, but I'm confident we did the best we could to keep him off the streets," Ms. Shenkle said.

In addition to manslaughter, Mr. Bernstein is charged with making a false statement to a police officer, driving while his license was suspended and revoked, driving without a license, possessing and displaying a fictitious license and numerous traffic violations, police said. He's being held at the Howard County Detention Center in lieu of $15,000 bond, a correctional officer said.

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