Driver in deadly Hampton bike accident facing charges
HAMPTON — The unlicensed Seabrook driver who police say struck and killed two bicyclists during a charity ride Saturday in Hampton was arrested Tuesday afternoon on negligent homicide and assault charges.
Darriean Hess, 19, faces two felony counts of negligent homicide and two counts of second-degree assault in connection with the deadly accident on Route 1A during the Granite State Wheelmen Seacoast Century Ride.
Hess was arrested in Seabrook around 3 p.m. Tuesday and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning in the 10th Circuit Court in Seabrook. Bail was set at $50,000 cash.
Hess is accused of drifting across the double yellow line while heading southbound on Route 1A at a high rate of speed and plowing into a group of bicyclists.
Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass., were killed.
Two other bicyclists, Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, Mass., and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, Mass., were injured.
The 8:30 a.m. accident came nearly eight hours after Hess, who had no driver's license, was stopped for speeding in the same area. Hampton police clocked her traveling at 59 mph in a 30-mph-zone over the Underwood Bridge.
Hess was issued summonses for speeding and operating without a valid driver's license — both violations — and released to a friend who picked her up.
Under state law, Hess would have been arrested only if she were caught driving with a suspended license, Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said.
"What she got was a citation for not having a driver's license. That is a violation in New Hampshire. It is not a crime. She was not arrested. She was given a summons, which is what you would expect for someone with a violation," Reams said.
Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said the police stop and the fatal accident were "completely unrelated."
"It's unfortunate that the incident happened the next day but the officer at that time had no way of knowing and he took all appropriate actions," Sullivan said.
Sullivan offered his condolences to the families of the victims on behalf of the police department and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
"Our officers have worked tirelessly to bring this conclusion today and we will continue the investigation to move forward to assist with the prosecution," he said.
Reams said it's too early to tell whether additional charges will be filed.
"We'll follow this case wherever the evidence takes us," he said.
Reams would not comment on the evidence against Hess and factors that may have contributed to the crash, which happened while she was driving a friend's vehicle.
"It was primarily speed, inattention, drifting across the double yellow line and running into the bicyclists," Reams said.
He did not say how fast Hess was traveling, only that it was "excessive."
Two young men, believed to be family members of Hess, arrived at the Hampton Police Department Tuesday afternoon while Hess was being booked. They were visibly upset and at one point were seen embracing outside the station as one of the men tried to console the other. They refused to comment before leaving the station.
The four new charges against Hess are all Class B felonies punishable by 3 1/2 to seven years in prison on each charge and fines of up to $4,000 on each.