Local News

Charges Still Pending In Fatal Wreck Caused By Diabetic Attack

Posted July 11, 2006

— The Johnston County district attorney's office could decide this week whether a father who crashed into a guardrail on Interstate 40 and killed his 11-year-old son will face charges.

Investigators believe a diabetic attack last Monday caused Ernest Brinson, 46, to begin driving erratically. At times, authorities said, he reached speeds up to 90 mph before the fatal accident.

Brinson had been on his way home to Burgaw from a doctor's appointment at Duke Hospitals when he experienced extremely low blood sugar.

The legal issue is whether Brinson knew, or should have known, that he was at risk of having the diabetic episode before he drove.

"A person with a medical condition is just as deadly as any impaired driver," said North Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin.

Whether charges are filed could depend on his medical condition when he left the Duke clinic.

Brinson's mother said her son's blood had been tested, but the results had not been returned by the time he had left. After the accident, Brinson returned home to find a message on his voicemail saying he did have low blood sugar.

"I mean, there's a lot of medical things that happen to motorists when they're operating vehicles," Clendenin said. "I don't know that it happens every day, but we know that in the collisions we investigate, it does happen."

"It's very common to hear stories of people with diabetes being arrested or taken into custody for being intoxicated when really their blood sugars are low," Clendenin added.

Raleigh endocrinologist Dr. Anthony Azzi said low blood sugar is a condition that can occur very quickly in diabetics with little warning.

"The window of opportunity to take action from when the blood sugar drops to a reasonable level -- as opposed to dropping to a dangerous level -- may be very narrow," Azzi said.

Azzi said diabetics should always check their blood sugar before they drive to avoid tragedies.

Brinson's family members said he was very responsible about monitoring his blood sugar levels and would have never knowingly put his son's life at risk.

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