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Drunk driving — the alleged reason why a woman was killed in a hit-and-run last month — is on the rise in Arlington.

The fatal crash in the Arlington Heights neighborhood has county leaders considering greater emphasis on curbing drunk driving. Neighbors, meanwhile, are asking the county to add more traffic calming measures to combat risky driving, particularly near Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

On Aug. 1, a driver hit Viviana Oxlaj Pérez while she was walking near the Thomas Jefferson Community Center at 3501 2nd Street S. She was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital, where she died.

The Arlington County Police Department arrested Julio David Villazon at his home on Aug. 2 and charged him with involuntary manslaughter, hit and run, driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license.

There has been an uptick in alcohol-involved crashes in Arlington. Last year, ACPD recorded 143 alcohol-involved crashes, up nearly 49% increase from 96 in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report. In 2022, ACPD has recorded 116 alcohol-involved crashes, says police spokesman Ashley Savage.

Bicycle, pedestrian and alcohol-involved crash statistics in Arlington County from 2017 to 2021 (via Arlington County)

Driving under the influence is one of the top contributing factors to a “disproportionate” number of critical and fatal crashes in the county, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. The others are speeding, turning left at an intersection, turning right across bicycle lanes and failing to yield to pedestrians.

Each of these behaviors is being addressed during an ongoing “Critical Crash Mitigation Campaign” through December.

The recent rise in alcohol-related crashes chips away at what had been a broader downward trend in drunk driving. Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol attributed this initial decrease to efforts, such as the ACPD Arlington Restaurant Initiative and the Washington Region Alcohol Program, as well as the growing popularity of ride-sharing services — which have been getting more expensive.

“Now, however, national trends are indicating major increases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the pandemic (regional data is lagging but reasonable inference suggests our local trends may be similar),” Cristol said in an email to ARLnow. “This indicates to me that there is a greater role for the County Board in public education about the threat that drunk driving poses to our own community.”

Alcohol-related traffic injuries in the D.C. area from 2013 to 2020 (via Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)

Cristol said the most important message she can communicate about last month’s crash is that “there is no safe way to drive drunk.”

“In this situation, the driver was impaired, and there is no ‘safe’ BAC above zero to get behind the wheel. Any intersection or roadway — irrespective of the physical safety improvements, visibility interventions, or other designs to the built environment — is unsafe when a drunk driver is present,” she said.

The DUI is Villazon’s second driving offense within the last 10 years, according to court records. He was previously found guilty of “improper driving” in the Arlington General District Court. Under state code, the misdemeanor charge of reckless driving can be knocked down to improper driving if either the judge or the prosecutor find that the offense was not serious.

His next court date is in February 2023.

The crash that killed Oxlaj Pérez is being examined by a broad swath of local agencies, including Arlington’s transportation staff, the police and fire departments, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, Virginia State Police and the County Manager’s office.

But neighbors say the problem is not hard to understand. They say drivers, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up times, speed down S. Glebe Road and Arlington Blvd (Route 50), run red lights, roll stop signs, make illegal U-turns, block crosswalks and go the wrong way on 1st Road S., a one-way street — and they’re not drunk.

“I understand the tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago involved alcohol and likely wouldn’t have been prevented with traffic changes,” said one neighbor, Kelly Cherry-Leigh Davison. “But we have brought up these safety issues numerous times to everyone we can think of and are getting nowhere. I’m worried every day another tragedy is going to occur and we could be preventing it.”

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Miguel Angel Rivera (image via GoFundMe)

(Updated at 11:15 p.m.) A Wakefield High School junior has died in the hospital after being struck by a driver while riding a scooter.

Miguel Angel Rivera suffered what were described as “massive injuries” after being struck while returning from work on an electric scooter.

On Monday, his parents said on a GoFundMe page that Rivera had died at a hospital in Fairfax County.

With heavy hearts, we want to announce that our Miguelito has passed as of early this morning, 9/5/2022. He is now in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ and will forever be remembered. He is now an angel looking down on us all.

We are in awe of the amount of love, support, and generosity that is being shown to help the family during this time of unimaginable sorrow and heartbreak. Miguel Angel was loved by so many, please keep the prayers coming for those closest to him that that they find peace, comfort, and healing.

The GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $20,000 for medical and funeral expenses, does not detail what happened. A community leader who shared the page on social media said over the weekend, and again on Monday, said he did not have additional information about the crash.

ARLnow hears that the crash happened just over a week ago in Alexandria. Police there issued a press release about a crash that happened just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27 along Beauregard Street, west of the Mark Center.

From APD:

The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a traffic crash that occurred on Saturday, August 27, 2022, at the intersection of North Beauregard Street and Sanger Avenue.

At approximately 10:17 PM, police responded to the area for a scooter struck at the intersection of North Beauregard Street and Sanger Avenue. Preliminary investigation suggests the victim, 16 years of age, was making a left-hand turn onto Sanger Avenue from the southbound lane of North Beauregard Street when he was struck by a Black Toyota RAV-4 traveling northbound on North Beauregard Street. The victim was transported to the hospital in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.

The […] driver of the Black SUV, remained on the scene.

APD’s Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash. The investigation is ongoing.

As of Tuesday afternoon school administrators had not yet sent an email to WHS families about Rivera’s death and, we’re told, were awaiting permission from the teen’s family to do so.

NBC 4 reported Tuesday night that Rivera was just minutes from his father’s house when he was struck. He died after being taken off life support at the hospital.

There’s still no word on whether the driver of the SUV will face any charges.

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) A woman has died after being struck by a driver who then fled the scene, according to police.

Viviana Oxlaj Pérez was walking near the Thomas Jefferson Community Center around 7:30 p.m. Monday when the driver of a truck struck her and then drove off, a family member told ARLnow.

Police and medics quickly responded and treated the critically injured woman, but she later died at the hospital.

Police closed the intersection of 2nd Street S. and S. Glebe Road, in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, for about two hours to investigate the hit-and-run crash.

An online fundraiser was established for Oxlaj Pérez early Tuesday morning by her daughter, Hilary Lopez Oxlaj.

Reached by phone, Lopez Oxlaj said her mother was walking across the street with her bike, on her way to the nearby 7-Eleven store, when the driver blew through a stop sign at the intersection and struck her.

Lopez Oxlaj said her mother, who was 53, had lived near the Arlington Career Center for 17 years and was known as the “lady with the bike” who sells cold drinks and ice cream to soccer players at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center fields.

“She was a mother who worked very hard,” she said. “Everyone knew her as a very kind woman.”

Oxlaj Pérez was a married mother of six and frequent churchgoer, who would often donate food to people who were struggling, her daughter said.

Lopez Oxlaj hopes that her mother’s generosity is returned so the family can afford funeral expenses.

“We are collecting funds to… send my mother’s body to Guatemala,” Lopez Oxlaj wrote on the GoFundMe page. “She was a very hardworking lady fighting every day… Please ask for your help, it will be a great blessing.”

As of 11 a.m. the page had raised nearly $3,000 of its $25,000 goal from a few dozen donors.

Police said Tuesday morning that officers arrested the alleged driver, a 62-year-old Arlington man, after finding the striking vehicle about a mile away from the crash scene. Alcohol is “believed to be a factor in the crash,” according to police. The man is now facing numerous charges.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

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Virginia State Police vehicle (photo by John Calhoun/JC Photography)

An Alexandria man has died after a crash last week on I-395 in Arlington.

The single-vehicle crash happened around 1:30 a.m. Friday. The driver was ejected from the vehicle and later died from his injuries.

More from Virginia State Police:

At 1:28 a.m. on Friday (June 10), Virginia State Police responded to a single-vehicle crash on the on-ramp from southbound Washington Blvd. to southbound I-395.

A 2014 Chevrolet Camaro was on the ramp when it ran off the left side of the road, struck a curb and overturned.

The driver, Jose T. Villanueva, 31, of Alexandria, Va., was transported to George Washington Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle.

Speed and alcohol are being investigated as a contributing factor in the crash. The crash remains under investigation.

Several lanes of southbound I-395 were closed during the overnight hours as a result of the crash.

Morning Notes

Swimming pool in May, ready for the new season (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Restorative Justice Coming to Schools — “Restorative Arlington has partnered with Arlington Public Schools (APS) to support Restorative Justice in Education. Restorative Arlington has allocated over $140,000 to provide direct services to APS, including services for students who have experienced harm as well as restorative justice training for staff and additional resources.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Candidate Addresses Achievement Gap —  “The county’s likely next School Board member has become the latest to try and enunciate ways to address [the academic-achievement gap]. The gap is significant and ‘has gotten worse’ over the pandemic era, candidate Bethany Sutton acknowledged during a May 14 forum sponsored by the Blue Families caucus of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.” [Sun Gazette]

Fatal Crash Near Arlington Border — “Officers responded at 2:16 a.m. to the 3700 block of S. George Mason Drive. Preliminarily, detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit determined the driver of a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta was travelling southbound on S. George Mason Drive attempting to turn left into Skyline Plaza. The driver of a 2018 Honda Accord was travelling northbound on S. George Mason Drive and struck the Jetta on the passenger side. Initially, both occupants of the Accord ran from the scene.” [Fairfax County Police]

It’s Friday — Rain and storms throughout much of the day. High of 73 and low of 67. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:26 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington: a highly educated and affluent riverfront county looking over D.C. Some say it has a kindred spirit in Hoboken, New Jersey, described as a “vibrant, walkable” city with waterfront views of New York City.

What makes Hoboken walkable seems to also make it safe for pedestrians. For the last four years, the city has not logged a single pedestrian death.

The trend drew the praise of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department released a national plan in January to reduce and eventually eliminate thousands of road deaths.

Arlington, like Hoboken, has adopted a Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic-related serious injuries and deaths by 2030. The county saw seven deaths between 2018 and 2020, and — depending on the exact location on the D.C./Arlington dividing line — one death in 2021. So what can Arlington and its 26 square miles (population ~237k) learn from the “mile-square city” (population ~53k)?

Arlington crash data from 2013 through November 2021. Crashes involving vehicles are left and crashes involving pedestrians are right (via Arlington County)

Hoboken transportation planner Gregory Francese credits the city’s success to Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s top-down, interdepartmental approach that involves residents. He says Hoboken regularly tackles challenging roads with temporary fixes that are made permanent later.

But the city wasn’t always pedestrian-friendly, he said. Cars could park up to crosswalks, which were faded, and intersections were in poor condition.

Those conditions began to change through repavement projects under the last mayor, and the work accelerated under Mayor Ravinder Bhalla when he established a Vision Zero task force, made of department leaders and residents.

“A big part of Vision Zero is removing the silos between transportation, enforcement [and other departments],” Francese said. “It takes someone who can remove those silos to unite people around Vision Zero.”

Planners test out quick, cheap and temporary solutions to find creative solutions to Hoboken’s main challenge: fitting safety improvements on narrow roads while balancing driving and parking needs. He said this approach translates well to bigger cities.

Like Hoboken, Arlington’s Vision Zero initiative has improved county government-wide cooperation, project manager Christine Baker said.

“The Vision Zero program has truly allowed County staff to place a spotlight on safety for all transportation-related projects and programs,” said Baker. “Our staff are coordinating interdepartmentally in a way that we have not in the past, which has streamlined the ability to get safety improvements on the ground.”

County staff map crash locations and respond with quick-build or capital improvement projects and pilot programs. The Arlington County Board, meanwhile, is setting policy. It has voted to further limit speeds and install speed cameras around schools and road construction areas, as a change in state law recently allowed.

Local transit and safety advocates say the county is on the right track but can still take notes from Hoboken.

Bicycling enthusiast Gillian Burgess picked up on Bhalla’s top-down approach. She also said Hoboken has more concrete actions and deadlines that are easier for the public to find and read, and the city’s emphasis on encouraging drivers to be more careful is front and center.

“When you have good leadership and concrete plans, you get something done,” she said. “We need the County Manager and the County Manager’s office and leadership at the Department of Environmental Services to take more ownership.”

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(Updated 5:30 p.m.) The child who was struck by a driver a few weeks ago while riding his scooter in Westover has returned home, police say.

A Cadillac sedan struck the child in the afternoon on Nov. 17 as the driver exited a county-owned alley onto N. Longfellow Street. The boy was reportedly pulled from under the vehicle and was conscious when medics arrived to rush him to a local hospital.

“The toddler has been released from the hospital and is reportedly doing well,” said Ashley Savage, a spokeswoman for Arlington County Police Department, told ARLnow yesterday afternoon.

No additional details about the nature of the toddler’s injuries were provided, although initial reports indicated he had suffered a serious head injury.

The driver stayed on scene while police began their investigation, which Savage said Tuesday “remains an active and ongoing critical crash investigation.”

Following the crash the look of the alley has changed, as some thick hedges — one of a number of safety concerns neighbors articulated about the alley — have come down. Workers could be seen trimming back the hedges last Thursday.

Reached by phone Tuesday, a family member of the homeowner declined to comment about the hedges.

On the day of the crash, Arlington County’s code enforcement division received a complaint about the house with the hedges, spokeswoman Erika Moore told ARLnow Wednesday afternoon.

“Code enforcement cited the property owner under Chapter 10 of the County Code and sent a notice as required,” she said.

Chapter 10 covers trash, recycling and care of premises, and says the following: “It shall be the joint and several duty of each owner or occupant of property to cut back or remove trees or parts thereof, hedges, shrubs, vines and other vegetation which encroaches upon any sidewalk, alley, roadway, street or highway and which impairs or obstructs any pedestrian or vehicular traffic.”

Other safety threats in the area, according to residents, include drivers traveling at a high rate of speed on N. Longfellow Street and on the alley, which connects N. Longfellow Street and the cul-de-sac at 15th Road N. Additionally, streetlights on the alley were dim or out, making it hard to see after nightfall, though the crash occurred during daylight hours.

The crash led the Westover Civic Association to ask on Nextdoor for reports of similar accidents or incidents in the area, which the civic group intends to present to the Arlington County Board.

In conjunction with a fatal crash one week prior in Green Valley, near Drew Elementary School, the incident prompted Arlington County to launch a review of a common thread between them: alleys.

“Our team is evaluating the crash locations in detail now and will conduct a holistic assessment on alleys from now into the spring,” Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien told ARLnow on Tuesday.

In the other crash, a man who was reportedly speeding down an alley on his motorcycle collided with a school bus carrying children.

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Prompted by two critical crashes in two weeks, Arlington County is taking a look at a common thread between them: alleys.

Last week in Westover, a car struck a toddler, who is now recovering from serious injuries, while exiting an alley onto N. Longfellow Street. Neighbors say the alley is frequented by cyclists and pedestrians, including students from nearby schools, but has dangerous blind spots.

Two weeks ago in Green Valley, a motorcyclist — who witnesses say exited the 23rd Street S. alley at a high speed — died while trying to avoid hitting a school bus. Instead, he flew off his motorcycle and into the bus, which had children onboard.

A team that includes Arlington County police, Virginia State Police, transportation engineers, public health representatives and a representative from the County Manager’s office will be evaluating these crashes, while county transportation engineers will be looking at other local alleys to find improvements, says Katie O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Services.

“As part of our Vision Zero Action Plan, we regularly review and evaluate critical crashes to identify actionable items that we can implement and respond to quickly,” O’Brien said. “In addition to reviewing this terrible incident [in Westover], the team is taking a systematic examination of alleys throughout the County to improve safety given the recent tragic crash that also occurred at an alley on 23rd Street S.”

The toddler from Westover remains hospitalized but is recovering, says Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The child, who was pulled from under the striking car before first responders arrived on scene, suffered serious injuries including, reportedly, a fractured skull.

Meanwhile, the body of the 26-year-old Alexandria man who died in the motorcycle crash will be transported overseas for his funeral.

Both crashes remain active and ongoing investigations, Savage said, adding that there are no additional details to provide.

Blind spots add peril to Westover alley  

In Westover, neighbors say the alley where the crash occurred is frequented by students headed to Swanson Middle School and folks on bikes and with strollers, who use a hole in the fence at the end of the alley to get to school or to the Custis Trail.

“It’s actually a more trafficked area than it might appear to be,” said one neighbor, Stefanie Cruz.

But it has blind spots for drivers. Where it intersects with N. Longfellow Street, there’s a large hedge to the right and a house to the left that neighbors say can obscure oncoming pedestrians, playing kids and traffic.

“It’s a dangerous alley, and it’s been a dangerous alley, and I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to that,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took something like this to make the alley safer.”

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Arlington police and firefighters are on scene of a fatal crash involving a motorcyclist and a school bus with children on board.

The crash happened around 2:45 p.m. on S. Kenmore Street in front of Drew Elementary, in the Green Valley neighborhood.

A school bus with 14 students on board struck a man who was riding a motorcycle, according to police. The man, who was reportedly wearing a helmet, was found lying unresponsive in the roadway.

Police have closed S. Kenmore Street, likely for an extended period of time while detectives investigate the crash. The victim remains in the roadway, covered in a white sheet, while police tape has been placed around the crash site.

School counselors are being requested to the scene for the children who were on board the bus at the time of the crash. No physical injuries were reported among the students, who have since been taken off the bus.

Despite the location of the crash, we’re told that that bus came from a school other than Drew.

Witnesses, some of whom were sobbing as they spoke to ARLnow, said the motorcyclist was someone they saw often in the neighborhood. They said he had just driven out of an alley at a high rate of speed and tried to lay down his motorcycle when he saw the bus coming. He “went flying” and was run over by the bus, witnesses said.

The man’s injuries were such that first responders immediately radioed that he was deceased after arriving at the scene and failing to find a pulse.

Neighbors said that numerous kids and adults witnessed the crash, which happened in a busy area next to a park on a sunny, warm autumn day.

The neighbors who spoke to ARLnow said that the deceased man was in his early 20s and worked at a nearby auto rental and repair shop.

“They are good guys,” a neighbor said of the workers at the family-owned shop.

Update on 11/11/21: Arlington County police just issued the following press release about the fatal crash.

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred on the afternoon of November 10, 2021.

At approximately 2:49 p.m., police were dispatched to the 3500 block of 23rd Street S. for the report of a vehicle crash with injuries involving a school bus and motorcycle. Upon arrival, officers located the unresponsive motorcyclist partially under the school bus. He had succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene. The school bus had fourteen students onboard at the time of the crash. The students safely exited the bus, were evaluated by medics and no additional injuries were reported.

The preliminary investigation indicates the motorcyclist was traveling at a high rate of speed from an alley on 23rd Street S. onto S. Kenmore Street. He tried to avoid the oncoming school bus by laying down the motorcycle and ultimately ended up partially under the bus. The deceased has been identified as Stevan Zikic, 26, of Alexandria, VA.

This crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective L. Lugasi at [email protected] or 703-228-4054. Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Matt Blitz contributed to this report.

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Update at 5:05 p.m. — The driver who was critically injured has died, police confirmed Wednesday evening. From a press release:

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating a fatal vehicle crash that occurred on the morning of November 3, 2021.

At approximately 8:29 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a two-vehicle crash with injuries at Washington Boulevard and N. Sycamore Street. The preliminary investigation indicates that as a result of the crash, the driver of a van was ejected from the vehicle and became partially trapped underneath. Upon arrival, medics extricated the driver from under the vehicle and transported him to an area hospital in critical condition. He later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased. The four occupants of the other vehicle were transported to area hospitals with injuries considered non-life threatening.

The deceased has been identified as Mauricio Campos Gomez, 49, of Manassas, Virginia.

This crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective T. Parsons at [email protected] or 703-228-4172. Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-8477.

Earlier: A person was taken to the hospital in grave condition after a serious two-vehicle crash near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The crash happened around 8:30 a.m. on N. Sycamore Street, at the intersection with Washington Blvd, and injured a total of five people.

The force of the collision ejected one of the drivers and they ended up trapped under a vehicle, said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. Firefighters worked to free the driver and rush them to a local trauma center.

The crash left one of the vehicles, an orange FreshDirect grocery delivery box truck, on its side in the intersection. The other vehicle involved was a white work van. A van for a local barbecue restaurant could be seen parked nearby but it did not appear to be damaged nor involved.

Four people — three occupants of the vehicle that the injured driver was in, and one in the other vehicle — were transported by ambulance for injuries that are “considered non-life threatening,” police say.

Police remain on scene investigating the crash. The crash response and investigation has closed N. Sycamore Street at the intersection. The ramp from eastbound I-66 to Sycamore is also closed.

The closures are expected to remain in place for at least the next few hours, Savage said. Various Metrobus lines are being redirected around the crash site.

A serious two-car crash Friday evening on Route 50 has claimed the life of an Arlington woman.

Police say the crash happened shortly after 5 p.m. at the intersection of Route 50 (Arlington Blvd) and N. Manchester Street. Two cars, each with two occupants, collided at the intersection, pinning a 63-year-old woman who was a passenger in one of the vehicles.

“Upon arrival, medics extricated a passenger from one of the involved vehicles and transported her to an area hospital in critical condition,” Arlington County police said in a press release Saturday afternoon. “She later succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased. The driver of that vehicle was transported with non-life-threatening injuries and the passenger of the other vehicle was transported in critical but stable condition.”

“The deceased has been identified as Marilou Jocson, 63, of Arlington,” the press release said.

A nearby resident said people tried to help the woman before medics arrived.

“The person who died was a passenger in the vehicle with the passenger side door destroyed,” the resident said. “Neighbors rushed to her side immediately after the accident but she was unresponsive.”

He added that a local civic association has been pushing for safety improvements at Manchester and Route 50.

“We have struggled for years to get VDOT to do something about this treacherous intersection,” the resident said. “Thus far VDOT has no plans to improve the safety of this intersection.”

“People speed, run red lights, turn into traffic on a ‘flashing yellow,’ and generally do unsafe things at this intersection every day,” he continued. “Unless VDOT takes action (not Arlington County jurisdiction we were told) these tragedies will continue.”

ARLnow has previously reported on several notable crashes at the intersection, which received some safety improvements in 2018.

In 2011, an SUV ran off the road and crashed through an iron fence. In 2019 an 83-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed and, later that year, at least two people were hurt in a crash nearby.

The Arlington County Police Department is asking for anyone with information about Friday’s fatal crash to contact investigators.

“This crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective S. Lafley at [email protected] or 703-228-4052,” ACPD said. “Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

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