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Driver Indicted in Fiery Crash That Killed 2 Arundel Teens

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2005

A 47-year-old woman who police say was drunk when she smashed her pickup into a convertible in Anne Arundel County in August, killing two teenagers, was charged with manslaughter and other offenses in an indictment made public yesterday.

Linda Lee Nichols, who police have said failed a breath test on the night of the accident, surrendered to authorities and was released after family members posted property to satisfy a $50,000 bond requirement. The indictment, returned under seal Friday, did not disclose Nichols's blood-alcohol level.

On Aug. 20, Nichols's pickup barreled into the smaller vehicle as it idled at a red light on Governor Ritchie Highway (Route 2) near Annapolis. The impact ruptured the convertible's fuel tank, touching off a fireball, and pushed it across six lanes of traffic.

David Snyder and Kevin Durm, 16-year-old basketball buddies from Arnold, died of their injuries. The driver, Nick Kirby, also 16, suffered a head injury and was released from a hospital two days later.

Messages left for the parents of Snyder and Durm were not returned yesterday.

Gary Bernstein, Nichols's attorney, said Nichols was so distraught over the crash that she at one point planned to attend the boys' funerals to apologize to their families, a plan from which she was dissuaded.

"She understands they can never forgive her for what's happened," Bernstein said. "She doesn't understand how she can make any type of amends for the destruction that's occurred."

Bernstein said Nichols, a mother and grandmother, had no previous arrest record. He said she is undergoing therapy, including "alcohol-related treatment," but he added that he does not believe she is an alcoholic.

The indictment issued by an Anne Arundel grand jury charges her with two counts of vehicular manslaughter and 10 other offenses, including driving under the influence. The manslaughter counts are each punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though sentences in similar cases are typically far shorter.

"This indictment marks the first step in a most heart-wrenching case," State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee (D) said in a statement. He said it is the policy of his office not to disclose blood-alcohol levels before court proceedings.

Nichols is not expected to appear in court for several weeks, court officials said.

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