Behind the wheel, Billy Canipe could be a real terror.

“If he was having a bad day or somebody was messing with him, yeah, he would drive fast,” said his fiance, Anjanette Micale.

Canipe’s driving kept him in trouble with the police. He piled up 15 traffic tickets in the last eight years. Virginia twice suspended his license.

On Wednesday, April 17, Canipe climbed into his Chevy Beretta and headed out of Alexandria towards a construction job in D.C.

Normally, Canipe would turn off the George Washington Parkway onto Interstate 395 North to head into the district, but something that happened between him and another driver made him mad.

Some said a Jeep Cherokee cut him off. Other said Canipe cut in front of the Jeep and got mad when the offended driver honked his horn.

Canipe and the other driver exchanged horns, then extended index fingers. They kept cutting each other off. Canipe was so preoccupied with the game of cat and mouse, he missed his exit onto I-395 and stayed on the GW Parkway.

Horns honking, fists waving, the chase continued, reaching speeds far above the Parkway’s 50-miles-per hour speed limit. Other drivers swerved to get out of the way.

Nancy McBrien left her Vienna home on Wednesday morning, excited about starting a new job at the Pentagon. McBrien, 41, had put her career on hold to stay at home and raise three children. Now the Navy Commander was going back to work at a temporary position and waiting for something more permanent to come along.

McBrien turned her Dodge Minivan off the Beltway and headed south on the George Washington Parkway. It was early and she had plenty of time to get to work. As she approached the Virginia 123 exit (the CIA exit), she drew alongside a Ford Taurus driven by George Smyth, a Navy Contractor Project Manager.

Canipe was driving faster, honking his horn and shaking his fist at the driver of the Jeep. As they approached the turn near the Virginia 123 exit, 10 miles past the I-395 exit, he veered in front of the Jeep, but cut it too close. His rear fender caught the front bumper of the other vehicle. Both cars went out of control.

According to witnesses, Canipe’s Beretta and the Jeep cut straight across the median and into oncoming traffic.

McBrien and Smyth had nowhere to go. Canipe’s Beretta disintegrated, scattering pieces over a wide area. The front end of Smyth’s Taurus collapsed. McBrien’s minivan was crushed on the driver’s side, the steering wheel horribly deformed.

McBrien, Smyth and Canipe died instantly. The only thing that kept Narkey Terry, the driver of the Jeep, from walking away was a broken leg.

“This is about the worst I have ever seen,” U.S. Park Police Lt. Lenny Chertoff said. One rescue worker vomited when he saw the carnage. Another cried.

Two days later, Virginia officials admitted Canipe had been driving driving, once again, on a suspended license.

— Doug Thompson
Washington, D.C.