U.S. News

Colorado lawmaker under fire after fatal car crash

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado lawmaker who advocates stricter seat-belt laws did not have her three-year-old grandson restrained during a fatal crash in Texas, then moved the uninjured toddler into a car seat before police arrived, investigators said on Wednesday

Suzanne Williams, a Democrat state senator representing eastern Denver suburbs, was driving a 2010 Honda CRV when she veered into oncoming traffic about 40 miles outside Amarillo, Texas on December 26, and collided with a vehicle carrying 30-year-old Brianna Gomez and her family.

The impact killed Gomez, who was seven months pregnant. Her child was delivered by Caesarean section and is in critical condition, Texas Trooper Gabriel Medrano told Reuters.

Gomez’s husband and two other children survived. Medrano said no charges will be filed until the investigation is completed.

A Texas Department of Public Safety preliminary report concluded that Williams was the only one in her vehicle who was wearing a seat belt. Her 41-year-old son and three-year-old grandson were ejected from the SUV, but were not seriously hurt.

Williams, 65, then “moved the ejected boy to the car seat in the vehicle,” an investigator, Chad Foster, said in his written report.

Another of Williams’ grandsons, who is seven years old, was also unrestrained but was not ejected. Foster said the two ejected passengers were lying in the SUV’s cargo area when the crash happened.

As vice-chairwoman of the Colorado senate’s transportation committee, Williams has pushed for legislation making unrestrained motorists and passengers a primary traffic offense. Current Colorado law allows police to cite motorists for violating seat belt laws only if a driver is stopped for another infraction.

A phone call to Williams’ attorney was not immediately returned.

Williams came under fire after the crash because of her advocacy for stringent seat-restraint laws, but also for telling a Denver TV station that the crash was a “...tragedy that is a personal experience for me.”

She later issued a written statement expressing “horror, sadness and grief” for the Gomez family. “It is a burden I will carry with me the rest of my life,” she said.

Medrano said once the accident reconstruction team completes its probe, the case will be turned over to prosecutors, who would then present it to a grand jury.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune