Off duty woman cop crashes, killing 4 Indian students in US

March 23rd, 2009 - 10:58 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 23 (IANS) Four Indian students killed in a road accident in the US were hit by a car driven by an off-duty woman police officer going the wrong way, according to media reports citing investigators.

The four students were killed early Saturday morning in Des Peres St. Louis when a car they were travelling in was broadsided by Christine L. Miller, a Sunset Hills patrol officer. The officer was speeding and possibly drunk, investigators said.

Nitesh Adusumilli, 27, who was driving the victims’ car and Miller were both listed in critical condition Sunday morning at St. John’s Mercy Medical Centre in Creve Coeur. Miller, the highway patrol said, was “clinging to life”.

Miller was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes of Dougherty Ferry Road when her Mitsubishi Eclipse struck the passenger side of Adusumilli’s Honda, which was turning right onto the road, police said.

Adusumilli’s fiancee, Anita Lakshmi, 23, was dead at the scene along with Anusha Anumolu, 23, and Priya Muppvarapu, 22 - Lakshmi’s roommates - and Satya Chinta, 25, who was Lakshmi’s cousin. He lived near Chicago.

Sgt. Al Nothum of the Missouri Highway Patrol said Miller’s car was “obviously travelling at a high rate of speed”, based on the damage to the two vehicles. He said police had reason to suspect alcohol involvement but had not made that determination.

Adusumilli’s Internet profile said he worked at AMDOCS, a software and communications firm in Chesterfield. His mother, Adusumilli wrote, is a yoga instructor in India; his dad, a real estate agent.

The three female victims were all working toward master’s degrees in information technology at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. They were meeting Adusumilli on the spring break.

A fourth roommate not on the trip, Anupama Mekineni, learned of the crash from her husband in India; he had been told by a relative.

Police contacted Mekineni on Saturday afternoon by dialling her number from one of the victim’s cell phones. The victims’ families are all in India, she said.

Mekineni said the university’s international school had been informing the victims’ families. She was also seeking help from the school in getting to St. Louis to assist with arrangements.

The three roommates had transferred to the university last autumn from Oklahoma City University, Mekineni said.

A spokeswoman for Eastern Illinois University - about 140 miles northeast of St. Louis - said the school has about 150 international students, roughly a third of whom are from India. Students at the school are set to return from spring break Monday.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of these young people,” said school spokeswoman Vicki Woodard. “This is a tremendous loss to the EIU community.”

“It’s really a tragedy for everyone,” Sunset Hills Police Chief William E. LaGrand was quoted as saying by St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Our heart goes out to the victims and to their families.”

LaGrand said Miller, 41, was a patrol officer with a dozen years on the force. The chief said Miller, a Kirkwood resident, was not returning from work at the time of the accident around 1:45 a.m. She had a clean record, LaGrand said.

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