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Family, Widower Of South Carolina Bride Run Down By Drunk Driver Gather on Beach for Remembrance Ceremony
"She would've loved it," said Aric Hutchinson of the remembrance ceremony for his late wife Samantha Miller, who was killed by a drunk driver hours after they were married. "This is Sam. I mean, she's a beach girl, through and through."
Aric Hutchinson, the South Carolina man who suffered critical brain injuries and lost his brand new wife to a drunk driver as they were leaving their wedding reception, eulogized his partner over the weekend on the beach where they held their ill-fated celebration last month.
Samantha Miller, 34, died after 25-year-old Jamie Lee Komoroski slammed her rental car into the back of the wedding party's golf cart as they drove away from Folly Beach at around 10 p.m. on April 28. The driver's blood alcohol content was allegedly over three times the legal limit.
"She would've loved it," said Hutchinson of the remembrance ceremony that had about 100 attendees, according to CBS affiliate WCSC. "This is Sam. I mean, she's a beach girl, through and through. We do walk here almost every morning and this is her send-off for sure. She's up there smiling for sure."
The slain bride's family and friends paddled out into the Atlantic Ocean with flowers with the name "Sam" written on their stems in her honor, according to WCSC.
Hutchinson watched them from the shore in a wheelchair. After the accident, he suffered numerous broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Hutchinson told the Charleston-based outlet. "My body's getting back to where I can manage, I guess. It's just as good as I can feel with the situation, but obviously, today and the outpouring of people was just amazing. I know Sam would love it."
A GoFundMe initiative organized to cover Miller's burial and medical costs for Hutchinson — along with his brother-in-law Ben Garret and Garret's son, who were also in the golf cart — has raised nearly $724,000 as of Tuesday. Garret is recovering from severe road rash and lacerations to his skin at his Utah home, according to Law & Crime.
Along with funds, Hutchinson told WCSC that regulars on Folly Beach, some of them strangers, have also donated food and well-wishes during his recovery process. Hutchinson's lawyer Danny Dalton told the outlet that the injured family members are all expected to recover.
"All occupants of the LSV/golf cart were injured to different extents to include one fatality," Folly Beach Public Safety Director Andrew Gilreath said in a statement following the crash. "The occupants were transporting the new bride and groom back to their rental house when they were struck."
Komoroski, who was reportedly driving 65 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone at the time of impact, was uninjured.
Tara Novit, a surfer who frequents the beach, told WCSC that the wedding night accident was "a tragedy for Folly Beach," and that beachgoers are "all grieving with the family."
"It's a little overwhelming," Hutchinson told the WCSC. "But it's, I mean, they're sincere, genuine, good-hearted people that are just reaching out that felt a reason to, or somehow they were touched by Sam. It just means the world — she left that impact."
Since the accident, Komoroski has been charged with three counts of of DUI causing serious bodily injury/death and one count of reckless homicide.
The 25-year-old has retained two high-profile attorneys: Nathan S. Willians, who represented Dylann Roof after he gunned down members of a Black South Carolina congregation, and former Monmouth County, New Jersey prosecutor Christopher S. Gramiccioni.
In a statement to the Post & Courier, the lawyers jointly stated that they could not "fathom what the families are going through," and offered their "deepest sympathies."
Police said Komoroski "strongly refused" to submit to sobriety tests on the scene of the deadly accident, according to arresting documents reviewed by Law & Crime. First responders reported that she smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on her feet.
She told responding officers that she had consumed a beer and a drink containing tequila about an hour before the accident. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being sober), she ranked herself as an eight, according to arrest affidavits cited by the New York Post.
Currently, Komoroski is being held without bail at the Charleston County Detention Center.