Snapchat video distraction caused fatal I-75 crash, driver says
His BAC was more than twice the legal limit when measured afterward.
CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - In the moments before the crash that killed her cousin and two friends, Ronetta Engram was in the back seat, texting someone on her phone.
Then the Lincoln MKZ drove 70 mph straight into a barrier that separated Interstate 75 from I-74, prosecutors said.
“Literally, face down, in my phone. All I did was blink,” Engram said in a packed Hamilton County courtroom Tuesday.
Then everything went quiet. Dark, she said.
The driver of the car, Brandon Davis, said he had been distracted briefly, when the woman in the front passenger seat, Alice Richardson, asked him to turn, look at her phone and “say something to her viewers” on Snapchat.
Richardson, who was 38, along with Erica Easley, 39, and Natasha Moore, 38, were killed in the January 2021 crash.
Davis, who pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide as well as aggravated vehicular assault, was sentenced by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Alan Triggs to seven years in prison, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.
When Davis was tested at the hospital after the Jan. 24 crash, his blood-alcohol content was .192, more than twice the legal limit.
But Davis, now 41, said in court Tuesday that alcohol didn’t cause the crash.
“Me allowing myself to be distracted was the cause,” he said. “It was my fault I allowed myself to be distracted.”
Davis said no one should blame Richardson.
“I made that choice,” he said, tapping his chest with his right hand, “to look over and say what’s up.”
“At that moment is when everything happened,” he said.
The women had gone to Copa Lounge in Pendleton that day to celebrate Engram’s 40th birthday. There was brunch, drinking and rounds of shots. At some point they met Davis, someone Engram knew but hadn’t seen in many years.
Engram said she couldn’t recall how it was decided that he would drive them, but they ended up in his car. They left Copa shortly after 6 p.m.
Triggs, at one point, asked her directly: “At any time did (Davis) give you the feeling that he should not be driving?”
“No,” she responded, explaining that Davis didn’t seem impaired. Engram described herself and her friends as being too intoxicated to drive.
They first ended up in a parking lot in Newport. Engram still isn’t sure why. They should have been heading to Roselawn, she said. While in the parking lot, she said she tried to call for a Lyft but didn’t know enough about where she was to provide a location.
It was eventually decided that Davis could drive them home.
Numerous family members spoke at Tuesday’s sentencing, which lasted three hours.
“You just don’t know what you did to us,” Richardson’s older sister, Rhonda, told Davis.
Richardson’s fiancé, Brian Riley, said he is still guilt-ridden because Richardson had asked him that day if it was OK for her to go out with her friends.
“I told her it was OK, and it wasn’t,” Riley said, before breaking down in tears.
Moore’s mother, Grundi Allen Moore, said the world lost three beautiful and intelligent women.
The court, she said, “can’t give me justice because you can’t bring my baby back.”
Easley’s younger sister, Stephanie, described how their mother passed out in a hospital parking lot “because she knew her oldest daughter was never coming home.”
Easley’s cousin, Tina, talked about the resentment and anger she and many others feel.
“I hate you,” she told Davis. “Right about now, I wish you’d walk out that door and drop dead.”
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