Dodging ‘Moose,’ Student Crashes
By KATY BURNELL
When UMW Debate Coach Adrienne Brovero and her husband returned home from the library on Dec. 16, they found tire tracks, broken glass and car parts littering their backyard.
“The first thing we noticed was that the tree across the alleyway was uprooted,” said Brovero’s husband, Judd Kimball. “Someone came up over the curb, knocked down the tree, swerved to avoid the garage then drove uphill and plowed into the fire escape.”
After inspecting the damage done to his Idlewild home, Kimball found an apology note, hand-written by a UMW student, taped to the front door.
Freshman biology major Curran Bullock struck the Walker Drive residence with another student’s SUV, doing $7,000 damage to the vehicle. The estimate on the damage to the house, which the couple is renting, has not been calculated.
The accident occurred after midnight when Bullock attempted to drive from a party at one UMW student’s home to another student’s home.
UMW junior Justin Schlesinger said that Bullock did not secure permission to drive Schlesinger’s green Mitsubishi Sport the two-and-a-half blocks from the party to Schlesinger’s house, where Bullock was spending the night.
After reading Bullock’s note, Kimball called the Fredericksburg Police Department to file an incident report.
The Fredericksburg Police told Kimball that Bullock, a native of Lynchburg, Va., did not possess a valid state driver’s license when the incident occurred.
Bullock could have faced a class two misdemeanor charge under Virginia state code for driving without a license, but due to land-usage rules the 18-year-old is ineligible for prosecution.
Bullock declined to comment on the matter, saying, “Overall, I was very lucky in that it was not as big of a deal as it could have been. I could have very easily killed someone, including myself.” Bullock left the scene unharmed.
Bullock attributes the accident to his lack of driving experience. He recalls ramming the fire escape at “at least” 15 miles per hour.
“Being new to driving, I pushed my foot down on the accelerator instead of the brake [after hitting the tree],” Bullock said.
Although Bullock said that he had not consumed any alcohol the night of the accident other party-goers confirm that alcohol was being served that night.
Bullock said he had a negative experience when he brought himself into the Fredericksburg Police Department the day of the accident, and that the Fredericksburg Police automatically assume the worst of any incident reported in Idlewild.
“The officer automatically assumed that I’d been drinking. He was very condescending,” Bullock said.
Conflicting accounts exist about what happened on the night of the accident.
Bullock said that he struck the elm tree after veering off the road to avoid hitting a dog. Justin Schlesinger said that Bullock had swerved to avoid a squirrel and Professor Brovero’s husband, Judd Kimball, said that Bullock told him he was avoiding a moose.
Kimball said that Bullock’s moose excuse was “highly unlikely.”
“I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I know what a moose looks like, and I haven’t seen one in Fredericksburg,” Kimball said. “I was actually offended.”
Bullock responded, saying, “I think I may have remembered the animal being much larger than it actually was.”
According to Schlesinger, Bullock experienced difficulty remembering where the accident occurred that night after he’d returned to the party.
“He didn’t remember what he’d hit when he came back with the car,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger said that he, Bullock, and another UMW student, senior Philip Holbrook, were able to drive the wrecked vehicle around Idlewild to search for the accident site, but the SUV was not safe to drive.
“I really thought it was going to explode while I was driving it, so we left the doors open just in case we needed to bail out,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger said that he found Professor Brovero’s house by following the power steering fluid that had leaked out the steering column on Bullock’s way back to the party.
“We just backtracked to find the house and followed the fluid, but that stuff was zigzagging all over the place,” Schlesinger said.
Bullock disagreed with Schlesinger’s account of what happened that night, saying that he remembered the house’s location, and did not recall searching for the accident site.
Bullock and Schlesinger decided to handle the cost of fixing Schlesinger’s SUV privately, and according to Bullock the repair costs have been paid in full.
According to Erik Nelson, a senior planner for Fredericksburg’s Planning Commission, the Idlewild community, which is located under ten minutes from the Fredericksburg campus, is technically private property— but only temporarily.
“There’s often a transition period between the construction process and when the land is dedicated to the city,” Nelson said. “Until Idlewild is dedicated the developer assumes liability for all damages incurred.”
Idlewild residents are still required to follow all federal, state and local laws, but until the Fredericksburg City Council votes to accept the development’s roads, Idlewild’s Homeowner’s Association assumes responsibility for managing the property.
Bullock said that he’s only heard from the Idlewild Homeowner’s Association once, when they contacted him to request compensation for the elm tree that he uprooted.
The cost of fixing the damaged fire escape has not been calculated, but Judd Kimball said that the ERA Crossroads Landlord Agency was in the process of performing an estimate.
The home’s owner, who is a member of the U.S. armed forces, is currently stationed in Iraq and is unavailable for comment. Professor Brovero did not wish to comment.