Governor reacts to toxicology report from crash that killed CT lawmaker Quentin 'Q' Williams
In the wake of news that Connecticut state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams was driving under the influence at the time he was struck and killed by a wrong-way drunk driver in January, Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday dismissed questions about the role his own inaugural ball may have played in the incident.
“He was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver who didn’t go to any inaugural balls,” Lamont told reporters. “That was the cause of Q’s tragic death.”
Williams, a 39-year-old Democrat from Middletown, had been sworn in for his third term in the state House hours before the crash in the early morning of Jan. 5. He was driving home from the ball. Police say another motorist traveling the wrong direction on Route 9 caused the wreck, which killed both drivers.
Democratic leaders in the House told their caucus Tuesday that the release of a police toxicology report showing Williams was drunk at the time of the crash was “imminent.”
“We’re lawmakers and we’re held to all sorts of different standards, but I think we’re also human beings as well,” House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday. “I think it was important for us to want to share with our members in the case any of you wanted to go up to them and ask them a question, for them to be prepared for that.”
The Connecticut State Police said Wednesday the report was still being reviewed for any needed redactions before public release. Connecticut Public expects to obtain the official report on Thursday, when police say it will be made available.
The report comes less than two months after another House Democrat, Rep. Robin Comey, of Branford, was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk and crashing her car in Hartford. Reporters asked Lamont Wednesday if changes were needed at the Capitol with regards to alcohol at events like the inaugural ball.
“I want everybody to look out for each other, too, and make sure it’s time to say, ‘Stop,’ and, ‘Don’t drink and drive,’” Lamont said.
“I don’t think you can regulate your way to paradise here,” the governor said. “I just want everybody to be smart and be careful and act like an adult.”
Bob Garguilo, New England regional executive director with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said drunk driving among Connecticut lawmakers is disappointing but not surprising.
“Unfortunately, it’s a microcosm of the state. What we see at the Capitol is happening across the state each and every day,” Garguilo said. “To see it at the legislative level… we know our work is cut out for us.”
Of the Williams crash, where both the wrong-way driver and Williams were driving impaired, Garguilo said “both people made the wrong decision.”
“The residual effect of that is their families lost loved ones, their friends lost colleagues,” Garguilo said. “In this case, the [legislature] lost an up-and-coming star. It’s unfortunate.”
MADD is advocating for the passage of a bill sponsored by state Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, to lower the state’s legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) from 0.08 to 0.05.
“We don't seek to end drinking or curb our state's restaurant and entertainment industry, we are simply looking to ensure that drivers do not get behind the wheel in an impaired state,” Cohen, the Senate chair of the General Assembly Transportation Committee, said Wednesday in a statement.
“This legislation would bring us in line with Utah, which upon enacting these lower limits saw a decrease in crashes and traffic stops and actually saw an increase in tourism revenue. I think it's a common sense piece of legislation that frankly saves lives,” she said.
A spokesperson for Cohen said the bill, which passed committee with bipartisan support, had not yet been scheduled for a floor vote in the state Senate.
Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto supports the bill, saying Utah has seen a reduction in traffic fatalities and injuries since lowering the legal limit.
“Connecticut has historically had one of the higher rates of fatalities tied to alcohol impairment,” Eucalitto said on Connecticut Public’s Where We Live on May 2.
“It’s not intended to actually force people to stop drinking,” Eucalitto said. “What it’s intended to do is raise the awareness of the seriousness of getting behind the wheel if you’re impaired.”
Connecticut Public’s Sujata Srinivasan and Catherine Shen contributed to this report.