Diana Pozderca was on her way home from a friend's house in her 2001 Mercury Sable around 8:30pm on the night of Sept. 11. At her Sterling Heights, Mich., home there was a surprise waiting: a new Ford Fusion her parents had saved up for and planned to give her the night before she was to drive to visit her brother at Michigan State University. But the 17-year-old, who had graduated high school in June and planned to start college and go into the medical field, "never made it home," Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said at a news conference Tuesday. "She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This poor girl never had a chance." She was hit head-on by a vehicle allegedly driven by an off-duty firefighter going at least twice the 35mph speed limit with a blood alcohol level at least twice the legal 0.08 limit, the Detroit Free Press reports. She died at a nearby hospital, the Macomb Daily reports.
That firefighter, Tad Alan Dennis, was charged with second-degree murder (which carries up to a life sentence) and operating while intoxicated causing death (which is a 15-year felony) Tuesday, and an assistant prosecutor said there is a "strong likelihood of conviction." The 15-year firefighting veteran, who the Free Press describes as "highly decorated," was also seriously injured in the crash, and turned himself in in a wheelchair. The father of two daughters had gotten off work at 7:30am the day of the crash, and his car allegedly drifted left of center as he approached Pozderca, who was coming from the other direction as she neared her house, in a mostly residential area. There were no skid marks, indicating he didn't brake before the collision, Smith said. The force pushed Pozderca's car backward by 75 feet. Dennis has been on unpaid administrative leave with no benefits since the week after the crash. A GoFundMe campaign for Pozderca's funeral expenses has raised nearly $17,000. (Read more drunk driving stories.)