Navy man involved in fatal Waterford crash was speeding, drunk after playing ‘beer golf’
Waterford ― The Navy man involved in a high speed crash in Waterford that claimed the life of his two friends had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit and had spent the night bar hopping, a police investigation has determined.
Robert D. Sewell, 22, of Broomfield, Colorado told police that on the morning of Feb. 18 he was attempting to drive back to the Holiday Inn in New London after a night out playing “beer golf,” a drinking game that involves visiting a bar to consume a beer before moving to the next bar, according to the affidavit for his arrest warrant.
The three friends visited six bars in Groton, Ledyard and Mystic, ending the night at the Mynx Cabaret bar in Groton, police said.
Sewell, who claimed to police he had stopped drinking hours before the crash knowing he would be driving, said he had missed his New London exit and ended up on Cross Road in Waterford where the fatal crash occurred.
When questioned by police after the crash, “Sewell said he was going to be completely honest because it was his fault and he ‘(expletive) up,’” the warrant shows.
Sewell said that prior to the crash his passengers were “egging him on to speed up,” and that “he continued to increase his speed and was going fast,” the affidavit states. Police estimate Sewell was traveling between 92 and 105 miles per hour when, at about 4:25 a.m., he lost control of his Subaru Legacy while driving north on Cross Road, in the area of Foster Road.
Police were able to view the crash on surveillance footage from a nearby business and said Sewell’s car slid across the roadway, hit a curb, went airborne through the entryway of a medical office building at 140 Cross Road, rolled multiple times and struck a stone wall.
Dylan Richey, 24, of Monument, Colo. and 23-year-old Bramm Miller of Colorado Springs, Colo., were both killed in the crash. Richey was found in the passenger seat. Bramm was found in a wooded area 40 feet from the car. Both men suffered blunt force head trauma.
Both Miller and Sewell were members of the Naval Submarine School in Groton. Richey was not affiliated with the Navy but in Connecticut visiting friends.
Sewell was charged May 8 with two counts of second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, two counts of reckless endangerment, reckless driving, driving without insurance and driving with a suspended license. The charges were the result of an investigation by Waterford police and the Shoreline Accident Reconstruction Team, which includes officers from the Waterford and East Lyme police departments.
Free after posting a $100,000 bond, Sewell made his first appearance on Thursday in New London Superior Court. He did not have an attorney with him and his case was continued to July 13.
Waterford police said they were first alerted to the crash at 5:28 a.m. on Feb. 18 - an hour after it had occurred - by a woman working out at Waterford Fitness at 132 Cross Road. The woman, identified only as a witness in police reports, told police that a bloodied Sewell had knocked on the back door of the gym and come inside looking to call police.
“There is no doubt he is high or drunk,” the woman told police. Police said Sewell’s breath breath smelled of alcohol and his eyes were blood shot and glossy. Police said blood tests later revealed Sewell had a blood alcohol level of .15. A person is legally drunk in Connecticut with a blood alcohol level of .08.
Sewell, who suffered only minor injuries in the crash, told police he found Richey unresponsive in the passenger seat and Miller was missing from the car after the crash. Sewell said he climbed through the broken driver’s side window to get out and look for a phone. Sewell said he did not want to touch Richey for fear of causing more injury, the warrant states.
Police said Sewell spent the next hour waving to passing cars in an attempt to get help until he saw the lights on at the nearby gym and walked over.
Because Sewell’s alleged crime occurred off the Naval Submarine Base, local police have jurisdiction in the criminal case. Sewell is currently barred from attending classes at the Naval Submarine School and remains part of a temporary hold unit on the Naval base, said Lauren Laughlin, a spokesperson for the Naval Submarine School. Sewell is restricted to the Navy base and could face administrative action, such as being removed from active duty, depending on the outcome of the court case.
The Navy held a memorial service in March for Miller, who was in training to be a submarine sonar technician and whose mother also served in the Navy.
Richey’s aunt has set up an online fundraiser to help cover funeral expenses at GoFundMe.com