Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fallout From Tragic Car Accident Lingers as Charlie Davies Returns to D.C.

charlie daviesWASHINGTON -- The siren from a passing emergency vehicle could be heard as D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper introduced Charlie Davies to the media at RFK Stadium on Wednesday, the sort of blare that surrounded the striker as he lay critically injured after a single-car accident not far from here in October 2009.

Not that Davies recalls much about that tragic night that left a fellow passenger dead and derailed his soccer career.

"The only thing I remember was getting in the car, eventually putting on my seat belt and waking up in the hospital," Davies said. "I didn't know how I got there. The only thing I could do was panic. I started taking the staples out of my stomach until a nurse ran over and stopped me."

Davies broke curfew to meet up with Maria Espinoza and Ashley Roberta, college friends from the University of Maryland that Davies met on a prior trip to the Washington area. The three were headed back to the hotel where the U.S. national team was staying in advance of a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, when Espinoza lost control of her Infiniti SUV on the George Washington Parkway in Arlington, Va.

The high-speed wreck split the vehicle in half, killing Roberta instantly. Davies suffered multiple injuries, including bleeding on the brain, a ruptured bladder, breaks to his femur, tibia and elbow and several facial fractures. Espinoza, who was not seriously injured, eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. She isn't scheduled to be sentenced until March 23, but was ordered to court next week after federal probation officials issued an order that alleged she had violated terms of her pretrial release by consuming alcohol.

"I think it's a good thing I don't remember too much from the accident," Davies said. "That's maybe why I'm not too emotional about the whole thing."

Davies, in fact, wasn't hesitant about visiting the site of the crash a couple months afterward with U.S. teammate Oguchi Onyewu, who's from Washington.

"He wanted to see his father who was having back surgery in the same hospital I was in," Davies said. "He said, 'Do you want to come?' I said I wanted to. He asked if I wanted to go down the GW Parkway. I said, 'Yeah, I do.' He drove down and showed me. As weird as it sounds, it was interesting to see all of it again from a different perspective. I felt so thankful for my life. I felt relieved."

Those around Davies said the near-death experience and the months of grueling rehab changed the 24-year-old Boston College product.

"This experience has made him mature," Nina Stavris, Davies' fiancée, told FanHouse. "He's a better person now. He's more compassionate. He's more sensitive. The (crash) has had an impact on him, but in a good way."

Not unusual for somebody attempting to come back from such serious injuries, there were setbacks.

"There was time in rehab when a shard (of his femur) would puncture his muscle every time he tried to do something," said Stavris, whom Davies credited as being vital to his comeback effort. "He never knew if that would go away. It's totally rounded off now and doesn't affect him anymore."

Then there was the emotional torment of being left off the U.S. roster for last summer's World Cup.

"That was the first big low point," said Lyle Yorks, Davies' agent and a former D.C. United player. "Emotionally, that was very difficult for him for about a 24-hour period. Then it was on to having the best season he could with (his French club) Sochaux."

Davies, however, languished as a reserve at Sochaux, and Yorks began to explore Davies' options stateside. After weeks of negotiations, United acquired Davies on a one-season loan.

Even though he will be only a few miles away from the Alexandria, Va., courtroom where Espinoza will be sentenced next month, Davies has declined to participate in person. He had the option to give a victim impact statement in court, but his lawyer, Jon Pels, told FanHouse that Davies has opted to instead submit a written statement. Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to comment on Davies' decision not to participate more in the penalty phase of the case.

"We just made the decision that it was best to focus on soccer," Davies said. "I want to leave that to the (U.S.) Attorney and the lawyers. My focus now is getting back to where I was and help (D.C. United) win games."

As Davies moves on, Espinoza faces as many as 13 years in prison and the Roberta family -- some members of which were still nearly inconsolable during Espinoza's plea hearing in November -- still haven't fully come to terms with the loss of a daughter and a sister.


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