, Salem, MA

September 24, 2013

Seabrook woman in fatal crash drove without license

Police: Driver was pulled over on same bridge hours before fatal accident

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — HAMPTON — Less than eight hours before Darriean Hess, 20, of Seabrook crossed the center line and struck a group of bicycle riders on a coastal bridge Saturday morning, killing two women and injuring two more, she was pulled over for speeding over the same bridge and told police she didn’t have a license, according to local police.

Hampton police confirmed that Hess, driving a 2002 Honda Civic, was stopped on Ocean Boulevard at 12:45 a.m. Saturday for crossing the Neil R. Underwood Bridge at a high rate of speed in the same area where the crash happened eight hours later. A Hampton police officer using a radar gun clocked Hess at 59 mph, well above the 30 mph speed limit on the bridge.

When asked to produce a license, she told police she didn’t have one. She was issued a summons for a speeding violation and for operating a motor vehicle without a license, and ordered to wait for a friend to drive her car away. Hess is due to appear at Hampton District Court in Seabrook on Oct. 23 to answer for those charges.

Later that same morning around 8:30 a.m., Hess was traveling southbound over the bridge when she veered into a group of bicyclists in the northbound lane, police say. The bicyclists were participating in the 40th annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century when the fatal collision took place.

Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers were killed in the accident. Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers were both injured and transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

As of yesterday, no charges have been filed against Hess, as police continue their investigation into what prompted her to veer across Route 1A.

As part of its investigation, police obtained a blood sample from Hess that is being examined for alcohol and other substances. They also confiscated her cellphone.

A Seabrook police official yesterday said while Darriean Hess has a “history” with the department, she has no criminal record. The police department’s interaction with Hess was not specified.

The Hess family is originally from the West Coast and moved from Alaska to Seabrook around 1996. A family tragedy in June 2007, when Darriean was 13, brought the Hess family to the attention of many Seabrook residents.

Darriean’s mother, Cheri Hess, 48, died unexpectedly after she collapsed while working in her garden. Within hours of Cheri’s death, the town came together as it had done many times before when tragedy unexpectedly gripped a family. A memorial fund was established to help take care of Darriean and her four siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 23. Soon after, a benefit fundraiser was organized at the American Legion’s hall on Walton Road.

Most of the Hess family’s relatives resided along the West Coast, and Darriean’s father, Darrien, was incarcerated at the time. Cassandra Clifton, 23, the eldest of the children, was chosen to serve as guardian to her two youngest siblings, Magnus, then 17, and Darriean, then 13.