I-45 Head On Collision

Wrong-way driver 'targeted' cars on I-45

By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News

Published February 21, 2009

LA MARQUE — A wrong-way driver who apparently targeted northbound cars Friday on Interstate 45 killed one woman and injured another before he too died of injuries from a catastrophic, head-on collision, authorities said.

Bobbie Griffin, 58, of Texas City, was headed south on I-45 when he struck and killed Erica Ives, 42, of Tiki Island, said La Marque Police officer J.L. Campbell. Ives’ passenger and roommate, Quincy Schmidt, 39, survived the crash. She was alert and conscious at a Houston hospital, Campbell said.

Griffin drove a white sport utility vehicle when he entered I-45 at Delany Road shortly before 11 a.m. and traveled south in the northbound lanes, Campbell said.

“Several witnesses said he was going from lane to lane, trying to hit cars on purpose,” said Campbell, the lead investigator on the crash. “Two cars following, with four in each car, said he just missed them.”

Campbell spoke with Griffin’s wife, who said her husband had a medical history of physical ailments but no mental-health issues, Campbell said.

Whether Griffin’s condition played a role in the crash is unclear and may never be known, but Campbell said he owed it to the survivor to learn as much as he could of the circumstances.

Rachel Wiley of Galveston saw northbound traffic slowing and cars changing lanes just south of Century Boulevard when the SUV headed straight for her in the center lane.

“Somehow I was able to change lanes and get out of the way,” Wiley said. “I’m feeling pretty lucky today.”

Joe Cowart of Marquez was leaving work from Galveston when he saw the crash just north of Vauthier Road.

“I was in the center lane, and he came straight at me,” Cowart said. “I swerved and honked my horn. He looked at me and kept on going. It didn’t faze him. I was going about 75, and he had to have been going at least 60 mph.”

From his pickup’s rearview mirror, Cowart saw the SUV collide with a Mercedes four-door car with two women inside.

“I saw him hit; then he rolled and spun in the air,” Cowart said. “There was smoke everywhere, but (firefighters) had it out within a couple of minutes.”

Cowart tried to call 911, but the line was busy.

Many other witnesses were trying to help the injured, he said.

Emergency medical crews and a man wearing a white lab coat, who was possibly a doctor, treated Griffin after firefighters pulled him from his overturned SUV.

Medics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until a medical helicopter took him to a Houston hospital, where he died.

Ives, who drove the Mercedes, died at the scene. Schmidt was taken by ambulance to Southeast Memorial Hospital. Her condition wasn’t immediately known.

Police blocked the north lanes of the freeway at FM 519, directing traffic onto the feeder road.

Photos taken by Clint Cooke TCFD