Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fatal Hit & Run in the 1100 Block of Florida Ave

About 8:20 tonight a silver Mercury SUV struck a woman wounding her critically (she later died of her injuries). Police moved quickly, blocking off the street, and searching nearby alleys and streets via cruiser and helicopter. The search paid off as the car was recovered nearby, along with the driver, who failed a field sobriety test. But the driver was gone.

According to a Fox news report, the 60 something 70 71year old woman later identified as Ruby Whitfield was struck after leaving a church meeting regarding preparations for Easter services. The car hit her while she was in a crosswalk, striking her with enough force to knock her out of her shoes, and throw her 150 drag her 86 feet (police say Bromwell did not slow down, and was probably driving about 65 mph). ABC 7 just reported that a man believed to be the driver is now in custody. The suspect has been identified as Joel Bromwell (the ABC 7 article also spells it Browmell, but that's an EXTREMELY rare last name, so I think it's likely Bromwell). Bromwell is 32 years old, and had apparently been drinking at a bar in NW prior to the accident. He is charged with voluntary manslaughter, and is being held without bond.

Please keep Ms. Whitfield's family, friends, and church, in your thoughts.


We have a new update from WJLA that corrects some previous inaccuracies. Updates appear in the original post above.

The Titan of Trinidad reports (via Twitter) that the woman was thrown 150 feet. Exactly how fast was this driver going?

Also from Twitter:
The story above has been updated with info from this ABC 7 story to reflect the victim's correct age (71, not late 60s), and to include the names of the suspect and victim.
Additional coverage:
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Anonymous said...

Terrible. People regularly speed down Florida and run red lights. Would love to see more traffic calming or cameras. Also lots of issues with people not yielding to pedestrians when turning onto Florida from 13th.

Skinny said...

Very sorry to hear this. Condolences to the family.

Florida Avenue is overdue for an overhaul - it's configured like a highway (6 lanes wide) and ridiculously dangerous. Although it narrows a bit on that block, the road is one of the most pedestrian unfriendly in the city. The smallest joke of a sidewalk for long stretches with heavy pedestrian traffic (Gallaudet students, Fla Ave market, etc.). I hope DDOT might be spurred to action on the long-rumored Fla Ave road diet or someone else will get killed.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is just awful. I'm so sorry for this poor woman and her family.

I've seen tons of cars whip by pedestrians waiting at crosswalks or worse yet- drive TOWARDS them at full-speed while they're in the midst of crossing. I have personally experienced this as well. I'm not just talking about big through-ways like Florida or Benning- even smaller residential streets pose dangers due to impatient or negligent drivers.

And on another note- I saw a poster at a bus stop near my office downtown that said police are cracking down on "pedestrian safety" and ticketing any pedestrians who fail to obey the law (ie jay-walking I'm sure). That is well and good, but only part of the equation. Police need to start ticketing reckless drivers who fail to yield the right of way- big time.

Sad Floridian said...

I'm glad that they are cracking down on pedestrian safety, now they need to crack down on drivers.I think DC in general has a bad driving and walking culture where it isn't uncommon to see pedestrians jay-walking, drivers blowing stop signs, and red lights, and overall speeding. This needs to change. I'm surprised that we don't have more accidents considering how bad it can get.

I think that they need to open up parking on both sides of Florida so they it narrows to at least one lane of traffic on the 1100 block stretch of Florida. The section of Florida where it is six lanes feels like a highway with people blowing past me when I am doing the legal limit. Most of Florida past Fourth Street, is almost exclusively residential. Even the areas over by Union Market, are residential on the south side, once you pass Two Rivers.

Anonymous said...

This is very sad. I've seen people in crosswalks, at lights, in danger, as drivers don't stop in the right place for a red light. They glide into the crosswalk like it's nothing. It is my understanding, legally, if you cross over the white line, it's considered running the red light. MPD should start enforcing this!

pat said...

this must be very sad to her friends and family

Don Omar said...

so awful. Poor Ms Whitfield. Glad they caught the guy and so quickly! Show of force was pretty impressive last night - good job FEMS and MPD!

Anonymous said...

this is just horrible...My neighbor was hit crossing the street during rush hour at the corner of 9th and K ST. I'm not going to point fingers on this one, but we it appears Maryland drivers are zipping down K ST to get out of the city. Every week I see drivers running stop signs. We really need to muster neighborhood action regarding pedestrian safety. Especially, for the children who walk home from JO or other schools without a parent. How can we tackle some action on this? Can we petition for speed bumps on Florida and K ST which would further route traffic to H ST? H ST should be the grapevine for higher speeds out of the neighborhood....

Anonymous said...

extremely sad. it is unbelievable to me that anyone could do such harm and leave the scene leaving an elderly woman to die. my condolences to the family and my pity to the driver. he'll have much time to reflect on this.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the road that killed this woman it was the driver of the vehicle. The driver was captured and will be prosecuted for his crime.

I don't think it is a good idea to downgrade the efficiency of our roads because one person was recklessly abusing them. What if this women was run over by a drunk driver going only 35mph? That's still very likely deadly for a 71 yr old. What if first responders didn't get to the scene in time to catch the perpetrator because we had crippled all of our road infrastructure?

Do you want to be knocked around riding over speed bumps in an ambulance after you've been seriously injured? Do you want it to take twice as long for that ambulance to get to the hospital or for a firetruck to get to your home? Roads are kinda useful sometimes.

Yes, let's deal with the people who are acting recklessly rather than cripple the city.

Skinny said...


Sorry, I can't let your "downgrade the efficiency" of roads go without response. I would not support speed bumps on Florida either, but I don't think such action is being seriously considered. Perhaps you are not familiar with Florida Avenue? Parts of the road were widened back in the golden age of GM. Talk of a road diet is really a restoration of the original configuration of the road as a functional street for people who live, work and shop in the area, as well as for cars (I drive too).

"Efficiency" implies appropriate use of space. Six lanes for the volume of vehicular traffic on residential Florida Avenue NE is a *wildly* inefficient waste of paving when you have a two-foot wide-sidewalk with lampposts in the middle in front of residential houses. The area has heavy and increasing pedestrian and bicycle traffic. A diet to four lanes down from six is absolutely sufficient for the current and future volume of vehicular traffic at the legal speed limit. It would not "cripple" the city (quite the opposite), but would certainly help discourage the kind of racing at 65+mph that goes on on that stretch of road all day long currently. I don't care if MD commuters get home 28 seconds late by observing speed limits.

You know that if the driver was going 35, he would more likely have seen and avoided the pedestrian. Of course, why would we ever encourage speed limits when only speeders will break them (you an NRA member)? Witnesses were clear that the driver was speeding, easy to do because the current street configuration signals to drivers that it is to be used like a speedway. A reconfigured Florida Ave. might or might not have helped in this case, but I don't see a downside to sensible traffic calming measures here.

IBC said...

I don't care if MD commuters get home 28 seconds late by observing speed limits.

And that's the bottom line.

12:28, your point about speed bumps is a bit of a red herring, given that the ones around Lincoln Park have made things considerably safer for peds and cyclists, and have had zero effect on ambulances and other motor vehicles.

But setting aside speed bumps, I'm sure you'd be 100% in favor of just installing 4-5 speed cameras along that stretch of Florida Ave, right? And lowering the posted speed limit to 25?

I mean, after all, it's all about "efficiency".

inked said...

For the record, the speed limit on Florida is actually 25 mph. That's probably a bit low, but nobody should be going 65 mph down it. There are also many ways to calm traffic that do not involve speedbumps.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I'm sorry but if the driver had stopped, and hadn't been drinking, all the folks talking about how "it's not the road, it's the driver" would be arguing that this was all just some tragic accident, and that it was probably the pedestrian's fault anyway.

The driver was inattentive, but he wouldn't been doing 40 mph if it hadn't been for the road layout.

Six lane suburban arterials are totally inappropriate for a city. Time to fix this shit.

Anonymous said...

For the record, the speed limit on Florida is actually 25 mph. That's probably a bit low...

That only seems low because the road is 6 lanes wide. And in DC, if the speed limit is 25 mph, that means the de facto speed limit is 35--since there's no enforcement until you exceed the posted limit by 10.

The speed limit in neighborhood streets should be 20. And if we're going to make the speed limit on arterials like this 35, we need to reconfigure the street, and have zero tolerance for exceeding that limit.

Anonymous said...

Victim of fatal hit-and-run was a fixture at Sidwell Friends School

Anonymous said...

If this guy was drunk and going 65 mph, an absurd speed on a non-highway road, something tells me no amount of road-dieting would have slowed him down or made him a safer driver.

And people who say D.C. needs to crack down on drivers must not have noticed the hundreds of speed and red-light cameras that dot the city, including one on Florida at 8th. And there are more on the way. So to say that the city isn't cracking down on drivers based on one horrible tragedy is simply not correct.

The problem is that MPD, which was pretty lax in terms of policing bad drivers even before the rise of the cameras, has now completely ceded responsibility on such policing to the cameras. Hence you have a guy driving 65 mph while drunk on Florida Avenue. I'm guessing he knew the chances of him being pulled over by an actual human cop were almost nil.

inked said...

There are definitely several issues at play here. This guy was speeding, and it seems like he was quite drunk (0.11) . Believe me, I've seen some nasty stuff on Florida Ave. I recall walking home and finding the entire block tided off with police tape several years ago. While I was shopping at thrift stores, a family had been getting their tires changed across the street. A young guy (maybe like 22) was engaged in a drug deal around like Orleans, or a street near it. MPD busted it. They chased him for a minute, but desisted quickly per department policy. He continued to drive at a high rate of speed. He ran through a red light. He didn't even slow down as he mowed down two small children crossing in the crosswalk with the light. They died right in front of their dad.

We can't solve all the traffic issues on Florida. That one with the kids was a freak incident. But, I would like to think that we can make the street safer. I'm tired of seeing of all this death.

Anonymous said...

This is a tragedy.

anon1228 said...

To respond to some of the comments I received.

Yeah, I've seen Florida ave. live in this neighborhood. Why else do you think I'm reading this blog?

The "red herring" of speed bumps was ACTUALLY PROPOSED by a previous commenter and I was responding to that.

Yes, I would support speed camera's as those would not impede emergency vehicles at all and would do exactly what I said we needed to do which is to punish the drivers who are being reckless.

The attitude of some of you people is unbelievable. Talking all about those damned Maryland commuters. First of all you live in a city, yeah, people come to work down here. You don't like any cars on the roads near your home move out to some cul-de-sac in the suburbs. Secondly, was that what this guy was a commuter? Commuting to work drunk at 8:20pm at night? Was he even from Maryland?

No, if a drunk driver had run over a pedestrian going 35 on your I wouldn't be blaming the pedestrian. I'd still be blaming the DRUNK DRIVER WHO RAN OVER A PERSON!!! You're the one trying to let this guy off the hook by blaming the a road. That's what upsets about this whole thing is you're making excuses for him.

I don't even drive on Florida ave regularly. My primary interaction with that Fl Ave is ON FOOT when I'm crossing it walking over to H St. Can I not have an opinion without you people assuming I have some selfish ulterior motive?

Clarkson said...

I think the point is that the road is configured in such a way that it becomes too easy to drive recklessly. Mix alcohol in there and it becomes a disaster. I don't want speed bumps but FL avenue doesn't need 6 lanes and narrow sidewalks.

Anonymous said...

Actually the driver was from Annapolis, so yes he's from Maryland. That's not to say this couldn't have just as easily been a DC driver.

Diane on I said...

The sidewalks in several blocks are a disaster to say the least. You have elderly, folks in wheel chairs even folks just trying to push a grocery basket full down there and have to go into the street to avoid a light fixture that sits in the middle. Reducing that section to 4 lanes would not hurt anything and would allow for wider sidewalks to be more pedestrian friendly. In fact, the city could even install a bike lane going each way with the extra space.
I was actually home the day that the young man mowed down those two children and did witness when the police found him cutting through a neighbors yard and had him on the ground right there in front of several of us. He kept saying it was his birthday and the officers kept telling him that there were two children that would never again have a birthday because of his actions.
It was very sad,,,
I hope that something is done and done soon. Even on H St NE, there are folks that run the red lights in the early morning and I think there should be cameras starting at the starburst intersection and go all the way to 3rd St NE to catch mostly these MD drivers.

Anonymous said...

You don't like any cars on the roads near your home move out to some cul-de-sac in the suburbs.

None of us seem to have any problem with cars. Only with the universal reckless driving by the owners of those cars.

No one is absolving this guy for drunk driving. But the idea that he'd be doing 65 mph if the street configuration didn't invite speeding is nonsense.

As someone said upthread, if this guy had stopped, and he'd been found to be sober, he would've probably been given a hug and counseling, and sent home with a $50 ticket...followed by a MPD crackdown on pedestrians.

Anonymous said...

"If this guy was drunk and going 65 mph, an absurd speed on a non-highway road, something tells me no amount of road-dieting would have slowed him down or made him a safer driver."

If speed calming slowed every other driver on the road, it would be harder for him to get up to 65. Slowing down all the traffic on the road might have at least slowed this guy to 40, which may have been slow enough for him to avoid hitting this lady (as everyone knows, the faster you're going, the harder it is to avoid a collision).

I second the calls to shrink Florida down to four lanes BUT with the caveat that the timing of the lights at Florida and New York have to be adjusted. Cars are backed up for blocks at that intersection waiting for a light change during morning rush hour. If there were only two westbound lanes, they'd be backed up to 6th St with current light timing.

roadster said...

On that note: H, K and Florida are the main westbound routes for several neighborhoods to reach downtown, with commuter traffic rolling heavy on H and Florida (and, increasingly, spilling over to K). What is the plan to deal with the traffic buildup as all three of those streets near North Capitol?

Skinny said...

Regarding traffic going West, perhaps it is worth studying why both L and M are only one way (going East) between North Capital and First St. NE. If L were two ways, Near Northeast traffic could take L all the way to North Capital (and maybe on to New Jersey). Right now one can go down to H, K or Florida only. The pattern of all these one way streets needs a rethink with all the changes there have been in the area.

One way streets are evil. They just encourage speeding, bunch up traffic on main thoroughfares, and generate extra traffic because they force people to drive around in circles.