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SE Woman Blamed for Crash With 10 Children

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page B01

D.C. police said yesterday that driver error caused a crash in which a sedan filled with 10 children slammed into a parked firetruck Sunday night and that investigators are awaiting the results of blood tests on the driver.

One passenger, a 2-year-old boy sitting on the lap of another child, was being treated yesterday for a serious head injury but is expected to live, police said.

The car's driver, Tandra Vaughn, 31, of Southeast Washington, told a doctor treating her at Howard University Hospital that she had consumed alcohol and taken PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, before the crash, which occurred in Southeast, according to two police sources.

Police said they will subpoena blood tests taken at the hospital to determine whether Vaughn had any drugs or alcohol in her system. Vaughn did not take blood or breath tests at the scene of the accident, the police sources said.

Vaughn, who broke a leg in the crash and was in the hospital yesterday, could not be reached to comment. A man who answered the phone at her apartment declined to comment.

Police Capt. Michael Reese said that the preliminary cause of the crash was "driver error" and that speed did not seem to be a key factor.

The accident occurred about 8 p.m. as Vaughn drove a Nissan Altima south in the 1300 block of Congress Street SE and crashed head-on into a parked firetruck facing the opposite way, police said.

None of the children in the car -- ages 2 through 12 -- appeared to have been properly restrained by car seats or seat belts, police said. Vaughn, mother of seven of the passengers, was wearing a seat belt, police said.

Vaughn told investigators that she dodged one firetruck and then crashed into another that was moving, police officials said.

However, the officials said investigators have determined that both firetrucks were parked in the opposite lanes of traffic while firefighters responded to an automatic fire alarm. They also said Vaughn had plenty of room on her side of the street to pass both trucks safely.

Police said they were trying to determine whether the trucks' emergency lights were flashing. Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman, said the lights were operating.

It is unclear which children were Vaughn's. The 2-year-old in serious condition -- Eric Vaughn -- lives at the same address as Tandra Vaughn, in the 4300 block of Wheeler Road SE, police said.

The other children were taken to Children's and Howard University hospitals and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. All had the last name of Vaughn except for a 10-year-old, Raynard Dorsey, of the 3300 block of 23rd Street SE. He was treated at Children's.

Officials could not say where Vaughn was taking the children, many of whom live at other addresses in the city. Vaughn lives about a mile from the crash scene.

Authorities said that all the children who were released were in the custody of family members.

Staff writer Theola S. Labbe and researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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