Family spokesman: 'woman to wed in April'

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Charges have been upgraded against the suspect in a Tuesday night crash on Pass Road in Gulfport. WLOX News was told by Gulfport Deputy Police Chief Leonard Papania that Darrell Edward Blappert Junior is now charged with DUI causing death. His bond has been set at $1,000,000.

The 26-year-old was allegedly impaired around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday night when he slammed into 29-year-old Deanna Tucker. Friends of the victim said she died four hours later in surgery.

Her death has sent shock waves through the city's police department. Tucker is the daughter of Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford. According to the family's spokesperson Alfred Sexton, Chief Weatherford's daughter was supposed to be married on April 23. There are even reports she was at the bridal boutique on Pass Road yesterday looking at her dress.

According to Deputy Chief Papania, a vehicle traveling westbound on the 1500 block of Pass Road, left the roadway and collided with a parked car. Officials said Tucker was loading her small child into the car at the time when she was struck, pinning her between the cars.

The child was unharmed.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and the Biloxi Police crash re-creation team assisted Gulfport Police in the investigation.

Ironically, we're told by friends of Chief Weatherford that he spent the first eight years of his career as a DUI officer, patrolling the streets of Gulfport, trying to keep suspected drunk drivers off the road.  Now, the chief's family is coming to grips with the loss of Deanna.  And as one friend said in disbelief, it's painful to think the cause of her death may end up being a drunk driver.

Now, for the first time, we hear from Gulfport police about the Tuesday night accident that killed the chief's 29 year old daughter.

In that statement, officers wrote, "The Gulfport Police Department has a long history of proactive traffic enforcement.  Annually, we set goals aimed at reducing crashes with injuries.  The police department has made tremendous efforts regarding public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving.  The department is involved in the "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign.  We continue to our support of "United in Fighting Underage Drinking."

"For the past 12 months, the Gulfport Police Department has made 1,292 arrests for Driving Under the Influence. This department has addressed traffic enforcement with the recognition of the impact that impaired driving has on the community.

"It is apparent from this tragedy and other similar events in our city that policing is only one facet of the solution.  People must take personal responsibility for impairment driving prevention in order to truly ensure the safety of themselves and others.  In a tragedy like this, there are great complexities in healing and recovering; when the prevention is so very simple - Don't Drive Impaired."

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