tampabay.com

Driver spared harsh penalty

Alrick Drummond lost control of the car she was driving on Interstate 75 in September, killing three friends and injuring her twin sister.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published January 20, 2006


DADE CITY - Pasco County Judge Robert P. Cole saw little reason to expect survivors when he came upon the grim crash scene on Interstate 75 near State Road 52 in September.

The Nissan Altima's roof was torn off, its windshield shattered.

A young woman with a good driving record had lost control of a carload of Tallahassee college students from Tampa, killing three friends and injuring her twin sister.

On Thursday morning, by coincidence, it was Cole who ruled on the fate of the driver, 19-year-old Alrick Drummond. He withheld adjudication on a charge of careless driving, ordering Drummond to take an advanced driver safety course and to pay $100 in court costs.

"Miss Drummond was fortunate to walk away," the judge told her attorney, Doug Wight, in a hearing that lasted just a few minutes.

Drummond could have lost her license and been fined up to $500.

She hadn't been drinking or speeding that Sept. 10 morning, authorities said. She drifted off the roadway into the median and collided with a concrete support.

Andromeda Spencer, 20, and Viquilla Troupe, 18, died immediately. Alana Williams, 19, survived only a few hours. Drummond's sister Audrick, initially in critical condition, has since recovered from her injuries.

All of the women attended Florida State University except for Audrick Drummond, who attends Florida A&M University.

Alrick Drummond was not at Thursday's hearing. She stopped driving after the crash, her attorney said. The biochemistry major purchased a bus ticket but stayed at school when she learned her attendance was not required, Wight said.

Cole's decision allows Drummond to keep her license, with no points assessed on the careless driving charge.

The judge agreed with Wight that the case was tragic.

Wight said the families of the students who died did not want to see Drummond heavily penalized.

"No one is vindictive," Wight said.

Cherryl Phillips, Williams' mother, said Drummond has been in touch throughout the past few months, and that family members with whom she has spoken agree that Drummond should not have been charged.

"I really don't think she should've been charged with anything. She's already been through the tragedy of it," Phillips said. "The tragedy of it all is that this is something that she has to live with for the rest of her life. I'm not the only one that feels like that."

While the hearing officially closes the case, Drummond continues to cope with the loss of her friends.

"I still keep in contact with all my friends' families, and I still miss my friends dearly," Drummond said in an e-mail to the Times.

She calls them her "angels" on the Internet profile she keeps at the student networking site Facebook.com. Her Facebook photo album is full of photos taken with them.

Two of the women killed in the crash still have profiles on Facebook, and friends leave messages of remembrance.

Williams, a Middleton High School class of 2004 valedictorian, was an aspiring accountant. She was outgoing, friendly and could calculate numbers in an instant. Her friends called her "Giggles."

On her birthday a few weeks ago, 16 friends left birthday messages, among them, Audrick Drummond, who wrote, "Happy Birthday lana . . . i love u and i miss u."

Troupe wanted to be a doctor. She hoped for a spot on the FSU track team as a high jumper. In her Texas high school, she cheered, played basketball and ran cross country.

Spencer was also an aspiring doctor and a devout Christian. She had just turned 20 the Friday before she died. On her birthday, the five friends drove to Tampa to celebrate and cheer on the Florida A&M Rattlers in a game against the University of South Florida. They were headed back to school when the crash occurred.

Drummond, in her e-mail, said she understands why she was charged, and that she is thankful she didn't receive a harsher punishment.

"I think the charge had more to do with the fact that since the accident was so bad, someone or something had to take the blame," she wrote. "If I could have controlled what happened my Andromeda, Alana, and Viquilla would still be here.

"I'm taking this experience for what it is and I'm learning from it."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 813-226-3354 or at azayas@sptimes.com