No criminal charges in fatal Bay Bridge accident

December 19, 2008|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

The 19-year-old driver who caused a Bay Bridge crash in August that sent an 18-wheeler plunging into Chesapeake waters, killing its driver, will not be criminally charged, the Queen Anne's County prosecutor announced yesterday.

Candy Lynn Baldwin of Millington, who was returning to the Eastern Shore from a wedding, had been drinking, the prosecutor said in a news release. But her blood-alcohol level shortly after the crash was .03, below the legal limit of .07 for impairment and .08 threshold to be considered under the influence.

Evidence supported Baldwin's statement to police that she had fallen asleep behind the wheel, State's Atttorney Frank Kratovil Jr. said. Maryland does not have a law pertaining to sleeping at the wheel. Kratovil explained in his release that most fatal accidents, including this one, do not fall within the "gross negligence" requirement for manslaughter.

Baldwin will face several traffic charges, including failing to drive right of center and negligent driving. She also faces a charge for violating a license restriction on drivers younger than 21, who are not allowed to have any alcohol in their systems.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 10, Baldwin's Chevrolet Camaro crossed the center line of the eastbound span of the bridge, which at the time was being used for two-way traffic for U.S. 50. An oncoming tractor trailer, driven by John Robert Short, 57, of Willards, swerved to avoid hitting the Camaro. The truck flipped over the side, and Short was killed.

It was the first time in the bridge's 56-year history that a vehicle had plummeted into the bay, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police said.

The rig ripped a 10- to 15-foot section of the concrete barrier wall away, prompting an investigation that revealed corrosion in some of the bolts that anchor the walls.

Portions of the bridge were closed for weeks while inspectors assessed the problem and made repairs.

After the crash, Baldwin and a passenger were flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they were treated and released. A Toyota Prius was also involved, but its driver and passenger were uninjured, police said at the time.

Court records show that Baldwin has a history of speeding offenses. She pleaded guilty in Kent County District Court in 2006 and 2007 for driving 70 mph in a 50-mph zone and 72 in a 55-mph zone, and received probation before judgment in both cases.

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