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Mother of motorcyclist killed in West Ox Road crash ‘saddened’ by $50 fine for driver

Andrew Dearing, a 27-year-old fitness manager at Gold’s Gym in Reston, was killed in a vehicle crash on Oct. 25, 2022 (photo by Cason Kimura/Golds Gym)

When Andrea Brubaker entered the Fairfax County Courthouse on Feb. 27, she expected to see a trial with witnesses testifying and evidence presented against the driver who had crashed into her son, killing him, almost one-and-a-half years earlier.

Instead, she watched the driver leave the courtroom after a brief talk with a judge through his son, who translated, to pay a $50 fine for failing to yield on a left turn.

Recalling that morning a couple of days later, Brubaker told FFXnow that she was “saddened by the outcome” and “shocked” by what she saw as a “lack of attention” paid to the case by the prosecutor.

“Overall, I was disappointed that there was not a trial so that a courtroom, a judge, myself, and others could hear the facts of this case,” Brubaker said. “I had assumed at a minimum, that he would be found guilty of the two driving infractions he was charged with, but for some reason, the prosecutor decided against it. The defendant did not offer any remorse or explanation to the court, nor was it asked for by the court.”

Brubaker’s son, Andrew Dearing, died on Oct. 25, 2022 after the driver of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee crashed into him while he was riding his 2018 Yamaha MT07 motorcycle on West Ox Road in Fair Oaks, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

In an initial news release, police said a preliminary investigation indicated that the motorcyclist had “proceeded straight through” the Ox Hill Road intersection and struck the Jeep, which then hit a pedestrian signal and collided with a 2013 Lexus GS350 sedan.

However, almost a month later, the FCPD announced that its detectives had charged the Jeep driver on Nov. 18 with two traffic violations: failing to yield on a left turn and failing to obey a traffic signal.

“Detectives determined [the driver], 79, of Fairfax was driving in the northbound turn lane on West Ox Road waiting to turn left onto Ox Hill Road,” the FCPD said. “[He] did not yield to the operator of a 2018 Yamaha MT07 motorcycle traveling southbound on West Ox Road resulting in the crash.”

Dearing was thrown from the motorcycle, which got totaled, according to a police crash report. He died that evening in a hospital at 27 years old.

The charges, explained

Brubaker says she was surprised to not see more serious charges, but according to the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, the crash didn’t involve the kind of negligent or reckless behavior needed to meet Virginia’s standards for involuntary manslaughter or reckless driving.

In Virginia, involuntary manslaughter applies to fatal crashes where someone was driving under the influence, and reckless driving involves behavior careless enough “to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.” Examples include speeding, driving in the wrong lane, driving with faulty brakes or passing another vehicle when the driver’s view is obstructed by a hill or curve.

According to the police crash report, the driver in this case didn’t have the right-of-way, and both his and Dearing’s vision may have been obscured by stopped cars. But the crash didn’t involve any health issues, distractions or intoxication.

The prosecutor decided to pursue an Alford plea — where the defendant pleads “not guilty” but admits that the prosecution has the evidence to prove guilt — to avoid the risk of a trial. The failure to obey a traffic signal charge ultimately got dropped because it wouldn’t have added anything to the punishment, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

In addition to the fine, the driver received demerit points on his license, but the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles assigns points based the most serious offense in a case, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says.

Fairfax County General District Court records show that the driver previously paid $30 fines for a May 23, 2014 incident where he failed to obey a highway sign and drove with an obstructed windshield.

“Mr. Dearing’s death was the result of a tragic incident,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Deputy Chief of Staff Laura Birnbaum said. “Prosecutors brought charges that accurately reflect the facts of the case, and…the defendant was convicted of the maximum possible charge.”

Dearing remembered as “positive person” and safe rider

The court proceedings left Brubaker baffled with little consolation or sense of justice after the loss of her son, who’s described in his obituary as a “loving husband” and “a bright, friendly, and positive person.”

A fitness manager at Gold’s Gym in Reston, Dearing “enjoyed basketball, playing guitar, hiking, traveling, skateboarding and good food,” the obituary says. He and his wife of four years, Martyna, “had a shared passion for fostering pets in need.”

“Andrew was a wonderful and special person. Talented, and strong, yet humble. He lost his life that evening as a result of this traffic violation,” Brubaker said. “It is a tragedy and I do not understand why the case was handled in this manner by Fairfax County. I was in shock and grieving, and I still am, but I wish I had done more to stand up for my son.”

Brubaker stresses that Dearing had always been safe and sensible since he began riding his motorcycle in 2013, but she hopes to bring more attention to the importance of motorcycle awareness and safety for both bikers and drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,932 motorcyclists died in the U.S. in 2021, accounting for 14% of all traffic fatalities that year. It was the highest death toll since at least 1975.

While motorcyclists die more frequently in collisions with fixed objects, 43% of fatal crashes involving another vehicle occurred when the other driver turned left while the motorcyclist was going straight, passing, or overtaking other vehicles, the NHTSA said in a June 2023 report.

Days after the court hearing on the crash that killed Dearing, a 19-year-old motorcyclist died on March 10 after he crashed into a sedan that was turning left from Leesburg Pike to Glen Carlyn Drive in Bailey’s Crossroads, the FCPD said based on a preliminary investigation.

Knowing that Dearing took safety seriously is part of why his death “hurts so much,” Brubaker told FFXnow.

After the fatal crash, she and Dearing’s wife, Martyna, started a GoFundMe campaign with plans to create a nonprofit in his name that will support youth basketball and music programs. The fundraiser has raised over $10,000 so far — more than double its $5,000 goal.

“Now this has ended, I will try to focus on the things I do have control over,” Brubaker said by email. “I will continue to love all of the people [my son] loved, I will try to help others as he did, and I will strive to be better every day. I am glad that he had a lasting impact on many and that the memory of him will live on in others.”

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