A car belonging to Rep. Charles Wilson, (D-Texas), was involved in a hit-and-run accident with another car on the Key Bridge Thursday night, and the congressman's car was later impounded for evidence, police said.
Charles Simpson, an aide to Wilson, told the Associated Press yesterday that the congressman was driving his 1979 Lincoln Continental on the bridge toward Arlington when he "thought he hit the bridge railing and came on home."
The accident, which occurred at 9:15 p.m. Thursday on the rain-slicked bridge, caused major damage to the rear end of the Mazda RX7 of Robert Reents, 22, a computer programmer, Reents said.
There were no injuries, police said.
Wilson, 50, a six-term congressman from East Texas, left as scheduled yesterday on a trip to Pakistan with members of the House Appropriations Committee. D.C. police officers who are investigating the accident told him he could take the scheduled trip, said Capt. James Brunzos, head of the D.C. police department's traffic division.
"We're treating it like any other hit-and-run accident," Brunzos said.
An hour after the accident, Arlington police impounded Wilson's blue Lincoln, parked at an apartment complex in Arlington, at the request of D.C. police, said Tom Bell, a spokesman for the Arlington police. D.C. police officers took paint chip samples from the car yesterday and photographed it, Bell said. The car was later released to a lawyer for Wilson, Bell said.
D.C. police officers will send letters to witnesses and to Wilson, as the owner of the Lincoln, asking them to attend an informal police hearing in the coming weeks, Brunzos said. The Lincoln's driver could face citations for leaving the scene of an accident and colliding with another vehicle, each of which is punishable by up to $100 and/or 30 days in jail, police officials said.
Steven Standiford, a Washington lawyer, said yesterday that he was driving with his wife on the Whitehurst Freeway after 9 p.m. Thursday when they noticed a blue Lincoln weaving on the road in front of their car.
"We kept our distance," Standiford said. "It was clear the driver was having trouble controlling his car."
The Lincoln merged onto Key Bridge in front of them, Standiford said, adding that he and his wife saw the accident ahead of them on the bridge.
Reents, returning to his Arlington home after attending a karate demonstration in Georgetown, said he saw a large car approaching him fast from behind as he slowed down for a clump of vehicles in front of him at the traffic light at the bridge's south end. The Lincoln hit his Mazda's right rear end, Reents said, spinning his car so that its rear end hit the car in front of him, leaving the Mazda facing the wrong way on the bridge.
The car in front of Reents, a 1975 Volvo, was undamaged, and the driver, Eric Honour, said he was not hurt.
"I got out of my car, and when I looked up the car that hit his was already in the intersection going away," Reents said. "I was sort of disoriented."
Reents said that he didn't notice the car's tag number, but that the Standifords told him that the car had Texas plates, "HOUSE 2." Police said they used that information to find the car later.
Reents, who bought his Mazda only two months ago and moved to the area from Minnesota, said his car is undriveable, and had to be towed away. The rear end is smashed and the back fender is pressing against one tire.