Guilty Plea in DUI Crash That Killed Gaithersburg Grandparents

by MCS Staff
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Today in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, MD, before the honorable Judge James Bonifant, defendant RebeccaThuc Hoang Vo, age 39, of Nashville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to two counts gross negligent manslaughter by vehicle for the deaths of Pran and Pamela Sharma.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 4th, 2022 before the honorable Judge David Lease.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle O’Grady is handling prosecution of this matter.

“We thank Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle O’Grady for securing this guilty plea. Our hearts go out to the Sharma family, particularly so close to the holidays. It’s a time when families typically come together and Pran and Pamela Sharma will be greatly missed on this first Thanksgiving without them.”

This stems from a motor vehicle collision on the evening of March 27, 2021 at Darnestown Rd. and Blackberry Drive in Gaithersburg, MD.

The feature photo from the scene was posted to Twitter by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

The events of that evening were described in the following proffer of facts which were read into the court record at today’s proceeding and it is as follows:

 On Saturday, March 27, 2021, at approximately 8:30pm, a fatal collision occurred in the intersection of Darnestown Road and Blackberry Drive, in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, Maryland. Rebecca Vo, operating a 2017 BMW i3, was traveling eastbound on Darnestown Road approaching the intersection with Blackberry Drive. Pran Sharma, operating a 2018 Toyota RAV4, was traveling westbound on Darnestown Road and was preparing to make a left turn into the residential neighborhood at Blackberry Drive. Pamela Sharma was the front passenger in the Toyota. The BMW struck the Toyota in the intersection. The Toyota rotated clockwise, struck the curb, rolled onto its driver’s side, and came to rest back on its wheels.

Pran Sharma was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased on March 30, 2021. Examination revealed that Mr. Sharma’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and thorax and the manner of death was accident.  Pamela Sharma was transported to Suburban Hospital with life-threatening injuries. She succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on March 28, 2021.  Examination revealed that Mrs. Sharma’s cause of death was multiple injuries and the manner of death was accident.

A witness on scene, provided a statement

“I was riding in my friend’s Jeep Wrangler on Darnestown Road heading away from Poolesville. We had passed through the light at the entrance to the Safeway and were approaching the light at Quince Orchard Road. I noticed the black BMW. The BMW passed us in the right lane and then swerved in front of us, cutting us off. The BMW then passed a car in the right lane and then swerved back in front of that car. The BMW then had to slam on its breaks as the light had changed from yellow to red at the intersection with Quince Orchard Road. The BMW stopped at the red light in the right lane. When the light turned green, the BMW gave it some gas and got going. It ended up getting about 300 to 500 feet ahead of us. I did not see the collision but heard a bang. . .

 

Officer Baxter arrived on scene and made contact with Vo, who identified herself as the driver of the BMW. Vo was on her cell phone, so Baxter asked her who she was talking to and she said the owner of the vehicle she was driving. While listening to her talk on the phone and while talking to her, Baxter detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath as well as slurred speech and blood shot eyes. On scene, a firefighter spoke with Baxter and said that he evaluated Vo and she didn’t want medical attention. He then said Baxter needed to talk to her and he said he’s “pretty sure she trashed.” Baxter walked back to Vo and asked her what happened and she said, “I honestly do not know.” Baxter asked her which way she was traveling and she said “I was traveling per my GPS.”

Asked how much she had to drink, Vo she said, “I honestly don’t know.” She then said 2 glasses of wine. Baxter asked VO what size her glasses of wine were and she said, “Half a glass.” Baxter asked VO where she drank at and she named a nearby establishment. Vo stated that she started drinking around 2 PM and stopped around 5 PM.

During Baxter’s interaction and conversation with VO, he detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her and observed VO swaying in circular motions.

Officer Baxter, a member of the MCPD Alcohol Initiatives Unit, then administered the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: 6/6 clues. During the HGN test; VO was swaying back and forth

Walk and Tum: Could not keep balance during instructions; separated feet 2x; During steps, stopped walking 3x, missed heel-to-toe 3x, stepped off line 5x, made an Improper turn, and took 13 steps instead of 9 on the second half.

On One Leg Stand: VO raised her right foot, swayed while balancing, used arms for balance

Baxter placed Vo under arrest and transported her to 1D. VO was read the DR-15. After, VO said she wanted to submit to a blood test. Officers explained that a blood test couldn’t be given. VO then stated she didn’t feel confrontable making a decision without speaking to counsel. Cpl Tortolero provided VO with his county cellphone. VO used Google for almost an hour without finding a lawyer she believed could help her. VO then asked Cpl. Tortolero about the Public Defender services. Cpl. Tortolero called the Public Defender’s Office and no one answered. Vo finally agreed to take a breath test at 10:57 pm, nearly 2 ½ hours after the crash. Corporal Tortolero administered the breath test and obtained a result of .13 BrAC.

Det. Polcsa of the MCPD CRU was assigned as the lead detective and responded to the scene.

Polcsa examined the BMW at the scene, as well as at the Montgomery County Department of Police Vehicle Recovery Facility. Damage was observed across the entire front of the BMW. The bumper and hood were compressed towards the passenger compartment and the front windshield was shattered.

Polcsa examined the Toyota at the scene, as well as at the Montgomery County Department of Police Vehicle Recovery Facility. The side of the vehicle had been crushed into the passenger compartment. The front windshield was shattered, and the front bumper had been broken loose on the passenger’s side. Both driver’s and passenger’s side frontal and side curtain airbags had deployed. Both the driver’s and passenger’s seatbelts were in the locked extended position, indicating they were in use at the time of the collision.

Vo provided a written statement to a CRU detective. “I was coming from northernly routes. I was coming from Darnestown, MD. I was heading southbound. I was going through, and the other car would have had to yield, and it did not. The other car was coming from the right of my vehicle. I honestly didn’t see the other car before it happened. I felt a bit blindsided. As far as I know it wasn’t at a proper place you can turn. It wasn’t at an actual junction. That’s as much as I remember. I don’t remember the actual collision. Then I remember speaking to representatives of the police force. I have no memory of what happened between the car pulling out and speaking to the police. I am not on any medications. I wear contact lenses for distance, and I have then in now. I had a positive intoximeter test and that’s all I’ll say.”

Polcsa conducted a momentum analysis of the collision between the BMW and the Toyota. The calculated impact speed for the Toyota was approximately 10 miles per hour, and the impact speed for the BMW was approximately 66 miles per hour. Polcsa believes that the calculated speeds are underestimate of the true speeds in the collision.

Polcsa then obtained and reviewed the data from the event data recorders from both the Toyota and the BMW. This data shows the Toyota was traveling approximately 11.8 miles per hour at the time of the collision, consistent with a left turning vehicle. The steering input is also consistent with the Toyota making a left turn.

The data from Vo’s BMW shows that at approximately 5 seconds before the collision, the accelerator pedal was depressed at 100% as the vehicle traveled at 65 miles per hour.  Over the next 4 ½ seconds, the vehicle continued to accelerate up to 75 miles per hour at ½ second before the collision.

Darnestown Road at the intersection with Blackberry Drive, in the area of the collision is bordered by residential neighborhoods, and the speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

Polcsa examined the scene and notably did not observe any pre-impact braking marks from the BMW

Polcsa conducted a time-distance analysis and determined that had Vo been traveling the speed limit, no action was required by her to avoid this collision.  Otherwise put, had Vo been traveling the speed limit instead of 2.5x the limit, the Sharma’s Toyota would have made its turn, been clear of the intersection, and Vo would have continued eastbound on Darnestown Road without any collision occurring.

All events occurred in Montgomery County MD.

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