A horrible wrong-way crash in Greensboro shows the variety of liabilities that can arise from underage drinking and driving while intoxicated.

Marcial Aragon Colmillo of Greensboro and Juan Carlos Cortes were killed when an impaired driver slammed head-on into their pickup on West Market Street in Greensboro, North Carolina, police said. The wrecks happened at roughly 2:15 a.m. on Friday, March 25, 1011.

Ian Michael Smith, 20, of Archdale, was charged with driving while impaired and driving after drinking alcohol while under the age of 21, according to a report by the News & Record newspaper of Greensboro.

Another passenger in the pickup, Octivio Landin-Acosta, survived. Amanda Leigh Tompkins, riding in the car with Smith, survived as well.

According to Greensboro police, the incident took place as follows:

A Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by Smith onto eastbound Market Street from South Elm Street heading west. Sgt. T.K. Brown spotted the vehicle driving down the street the wrong way, and began to follow with his police lights on, but the car drove off at a high rate of speed. Brown followed it for a while, possibly to pursue or to warn oncoming drivers of a dangerous vehicle approaching, but soon gave up the action, perhaps as being too dangerous.

The pickup truck, driven by Colmillo, drove onto Market Street from Aycock Street heading east. 

Both surviving passengers were treated at the hospital and released. Smith was admitted to the hospital.

The possible civil liabilities created by this incident are complicated – and they don’t end with causes against the driver. Smith and his passenger were heading away from the South Elm Street area – a part of the city with several nightclubs close by. They were leaving the area at about 2 in the morning, closing time for the sale of alcohol.

Dram shop liability laws hold sellers of alcohol responsible harm that intoxicated patrons cause other people, and sometimes the harm that the intoxicated person causes to himself. The mangled wreckage of the two vehicles – which crashed in a 35-mph zone – indicates a tremendous rate of speed, which is often evidence of reckless behavior fueled by drinking.

Sellers are also liable for selling alcohol to underage individuals. In this case, someone, or some business, is most assuredly liable for providing alcohol to a person who is underage.

To complicate matters more, it’s no rare thing for people underage to get false identification. The individual providing that fake I.D. can be held responsible as well.

So, what might be a reasonable scenario of the web of people contributing to these deaths and injuries? It’s conceivable that the driver, a nightclub, a bartender, and somebody who sells fake I.D.’s could all have had a hand in the series of events that led up to this deadly crash.

What a tangled mess alcohol can make when young people drink and get behind the wheel.

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