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Driver charged with manslaughter in crash that killed 3 children in Md.

A man suspected of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash in Maryland that left three young siblings dead has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Thomas Daniel Hawks, 27, of White Plains, Md., had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he was driving home from a Washington Redskins football game the night of the Dec. 30 crash, prosecutors said.

A Prince George’s County grand jury handed up the charges against Hawks on Thursday, and authorities issued an arrest warrant, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy announced.

Hawks has been charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of causing life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and other related charges, Braveboy said. Hawks was “heavily intoxicated” when he crashed his pickup truck into a sedan carrying a family of five, Braveboy said.

The parents of the children killed survived with critical injuries.

“We are confident that we have the evidence needed to get justice for the Mejia family,” Braveboy said.

Three children in car killed when speeding pickup hits them from behind

Online court records did not list an attorney for Hawks. When a reporter reached a phone number that appeared to be associated with him Thursday evening, a woman who answered hung up on learning the call was from the The Washington Post.

The charges stem from the night of Dec. 30, when the Mejias were heading home to Falls Church, Va., from church services in Maryland, police and county officials said. The family was in a Honda Accord stopped at a red light on Indian Head Highway near Wilson Bridge Drive about 9:40 p.m. when a speeding Chevrolet Silverado truck slammed into the car from behind, according to police and prosecutors.

The crash ripped the roof off the family’s sedan, and the truck’s front tires landed on the car’s back seat and crushed the children, police said.

The impact killed three siblings: Alexander and Rosalie Mejia, 5-year-old twins, and their younger brother, Isaac, whose first birthday the family celebrated a month before the crash.

Crash killing 3 children renews safety concerns on one of Md.’s most dangerous roads

Braveboy said the children’s parents have been released from the hospital but remain immobile. The mother and father, whom law enforcement have not publicly named, buried their three children over the weekend of Jan. 19 and 20.

Braveboy, sharing words on behalf of the children’s parents, said that they will miss their children “for the rest of their lives” and that “they loved them with all their hearts.”

“The defendant’s family will be able to see him and touch him, and my wife and I won’t be able to do that with our children ever again,” Braveboy said, reading the words of the children’s father.

The crash occurred along what AAA regularly calls one of the most dangerous roads in the Washington region. A week after the crash, local and state officials announced that they would push for legislation to increase the number of speed cameras along the 13-mile highway. Braveboy said the Mejias have also vowed to fight for improved safety measures along the road.

Including the deaths of the Mejia children, Indian Head Highway saw five fatalities in 2018, according to data from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.

In the past three years, Prince George’s County police have increased enforcement efforts, issuing more than 10,000 citations and pulling over 700 drivers.

Between 2007 to 2018, 65 people died in crashes on Indian Head Highway, according to AAA. That toll includes eight fatalities during an infamous illegal drag race in 2008.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski called the crash involving the Mejias “devastating” and said his department will have stepped-up DUI enforcement along Indian Head Highway next Friday.

“Please have those difficult conversations,” Stawinski said about preventing drunken driving. “Driving while intoxicated to any degree must stop.”

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