A Virginia community is in shock after a suspected drunk driver hit two of their graduating seniors while they were returning from a day at the beach. One of the seniors was killed in the crash and the other remains in critical condition, while multiple charges have been laid against the truck driver. It has also been revealed that the driver was already due in court this month for traffic charges against him and there are concerns that the driver should not have been allowed to drive the truck. Whether the driver’s violations were factors in the truck crash remains to be seen. Unfortunately, accidents involving a truck driver without a proper license are not unheard of.
Virginia Beach Truck Crash Happened As Victims Returned from Beach
May 19, 2017
As the senior class of Great Bridge High School prepares for graduation on June 16, 2017, they must grapple with emotions over two graduates who will be missing from the ceremony: best friends Kaitlyn Duffy and Sabrina Mundorff.
The two girls were driving along Indian River Road on Friday, May 19, 2017, at around 3:19 p.m. when Jerode Demetrius Johnson, who was driving a box truck delivering furniture, lost control of the vehicle, crossed the center line and hit the SUV driven by Duffy.
Duffy died at the scene and Mundorff was airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where she remains. According to a bail determination sheet in the court file against Johnson, Johnson got out of the truck and attempted to flee the scene of the truck crash.
Five Charges Filed Against Driver in Fatal Virginia Truck Crash
On Monday, May 22, 2017, Johnson appeared in court, where his charges from the Virginia Beach truck crash were read against him: Involuntary manslaughter, maiming, hit and run, DUI, and driving on a suspended license. In response, Johnson said he would hire an attorney instead of using the one provided to him.
By that time, however, a frightening list of past traffic and criminal charges against Johnson had come to light. Johnson was already due in court on June 5, 2017 for charges of driving with a suspended license, an expired registration, and a failed inspection. He was also due in court on May 23, 2017 for a possession of marijuana charge. Earlier in 2017, Johnson had been found guilty for driving with a suspended license following an incident in July 2016.
Those were only the most recent of the charges against Johnson, who had also been arrested and found guilty in 2015 for firing a gun in public while drunk, and had been found guilty of indecent exposure in 2009. Court records also show other vehicle-related infractions such as speeding and failure to yield.
Johnson was conducting a delivery for Great Bridge Furniture, who court documents say employed him for 14 years, when the truck crash occurred. He did not have a commercial driver’s license. So far, Great Bridge Furniture has declined to comment on the accident.
Johnson’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 21, 2017. He has not commented on the Virginia Beach truck crash.
Both Seniors Were Planning to Attend Virginia Tech in the Fall
Those who knew them say that Duffy and Mundorff were best friends, looking forward to prom and excited to attend Virginia Tech together in the fall. Both were well-liked and had their own list of accomplishments at Great Bridge High School.
Duffy was a member of the National Honor Society, had been president of her freshmen and sophomore class, and was awarded the Presidential Award of Academic Excellence. She was also a cheerleader, on the swim team, and played violin in the orchestra.
Mundorff was also in the National Honor Society, and earned a 4.3+ GPA, while playing on the school’s field hockey team. At Virginia Tech she planned to study biology and hoped to ultimately work in the medical field. Friends of Mundorff’s have set up a YouCaring site to raise funds for medical expenses and related costs as the Mundorff family approaches a long road to recovery. As of June 7, 2017, the site had raised $30,231 of its $50,000 goal.
Parents Warned of Risks on the Road
Both victims’ parents are reeling from the Virginia Beach truck crash, and have recounted the final conversations with their daughters, each asking them to be careful on the roads.
Debbie Leger, Sabrina’s mother, warned her daughter of drunk drivers before she departed for a new job in Dallas, Texas.
“I do not want anything to happen to you while I’m so far away,” Leger recounted telling her daughter in a interview with 13newsnow.com. “I don’t ever want anything to happen to you but especially when I’m so far away.”
Scott Duffy, Kaitlyn’s father, still regrets that he hadn’t paid more attention as he said goodbye to his daughter on the day of the crash.
“She came to say goodbye, and I was on the phone, it eats me up because I gave her a half-hug instead of a full hug,” Scott Duffy told WAVY. He then yelled after her “Drive safe, I love you.”
The Duffys received one last text from Kaitlyn only six minutes before the accident that ended her life. It was a picture of the family puppy, who Kaitlyn had taken to the beach and who also died in the truck accident.
Virginia Beach Truck Crash Victims’ Chairs Will Be Left Empty at Graduation
In the days following the fatal crash that killed Duffy and severely injured Mundorff, the senior class of Great Bridge High School asked the school that the two girl’s chairs be vacant at graduation.
“I don’t think there is any kid in Chesapeake that doesn’t want their seats empty,” Raeann Jones emphasized. “It’s their spot and no one can take their spot. They deserve it. Why take their chair? They worked for it. Four years of high school excellence, why take it away from them?”
Despite the students’ pleas and even Duffy’s family joining the call for the empty chairs, the school initially declined the request, saying, in a statement: Our statement still stands. Graduation is a time of celebration for students, parents and guests. Appropriate recognition is being considered by school administration for schools that have lost students or staff.
After building pressure from the community, however, the school announced that not only will the chairs be left empty, but ribbons will be provided for graduates to wear in honor of the girls and a moment of silence would be held for Duffy prior to the ceremony.
It will be a poignant occasion for the class as they remember a classmate taken too soon, and just one of many ways to honor their departed friend, who, three weeks after her death, was voted prom queen.