Springfield, Va., native Varinder Chahal, 23, has been charged with drinking under the influence (DUI), refusal to submit to a blood or breathalyzer test and felony manslaughter in the car accident that killed Virginia Commonwealth University student Carolina Perez and left two other VCU students injured.
A Tragic Accident
According to a press release from the Richmond Police Department, Chahal was driving a 2004 Mazda on Canal Street around 12:37 a.m. when he ran a red light, T-boning a 2007 Toyota Yaris on Second Street.
None of the four people in Chahal's car were injured. The Toyota, however, spun around before slamming into a nearby building. Perez, 19, was in the back seat. She died from injuries sustained in the crash.
A police officer in his cruiser witnessed the attack while he was catching up on paperwork in a parking lot at the corner of Second and Canal.
The other students hospitalized in the accident have been identified by The Richmond Times-Dispatch as the 19-year-old driver of the Toyota and a 20-year-old front seat passenger.
Remembering Carolina Perez
Carolina Perez, of Virginia Beach, was a biology major at VCU, and an active member of the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Richmond, Va. The sophomore worked in the church as part of its Campus Ministry community.
On Thursday, supporters poured into the Cathedral for a prayer service in memory of the college teen, and to express their sympathies for her family.
VCU president Michael Rao also issued a statement to The Times-Dispatch on the DUI accident.
I express tremendous sadness at the tragic loss of one of our students early today in a car crash in Richmond, Rao wrote on Wednesday.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Carolina Perez.
Rao wished the other two VCU students a speedy recovery, and told students that grief counseling would be available at the University Counseling Services office in Room 238 at the Student Commons.
Please remember the families of these students at this difficult time, Rao said.
Chahal Faces Over Twenty Years in Prison
In the state of Virginia, driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a sobriety test carries significant fines, a license suspension for one year, and possible imprisonment if the driver's blood alcohol level is above 0.08.
If that DUI leads to felony manslaughter, however, which Chahal is now charged with, the penalties become far more severe.
In Virginia, felony manslaughter requires at least one year in prison and a maximum of twenty years behind bars. If Chahal's conduct is so gross, wanton and culpable in the case that he can be shown to have a reckless disregard for human life, the 23-year-old is likely to receive the maximum penalty.
Chahal and Perez's families have been unavailable for comment in this case so far. A funeral mass for Perez will be held Saturday at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, Va.