Motorist Sentenced In Canal Crash

OCEAN CITY – A Fenwick Island, Del. woman who crashed her vehicle into a midtown bayside canal in November before being rescued by a local man pleaded guilty this week in District Court to driving under the influence and was sentenced to a year in jail, all but one month of which was suspended.

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Nov. 15, Ocean City resident Christopher Sullivan, general manager of Yang’s Palace restaurant on 53rd Street, was sleeping in his apartment over the establishment when he heard tire rims on the gravel parking lot outside. Sullivan went outside to investigate the noise and saw a Toyota Camry ride across the parking lot on flat tires, strike a pontoon boat on blocks hard enough to move the vessel off its supports and crash into the canal nearby.

Sullivan ran down to the parking lot and quickly jumped into the canal in an effort to rescue its driver, later identified as Taylor Cole Vanderhook, 23, who was reportedly screaming and crying while talking on her cell phone. At first, Sullivan attempted to push the vehicle, which was still floating somewhat, although it was rapidly taking on water, toward a floating dock on the opposite side of the canal. However, Sullivan was unsuccessful in moving the vehicle, which was filling quickly and starting to sink.

Armed with a four-by-four board he found nearby, Sullivan jumped on the trunk of the sinking vehicle and smashed out the back window. After some effort and a little struggle, Vanderhook, with Sullivan’s help, climbed out of the broken window to safety with about six inches of air space left under the roof. Seconds later, the Toyota Camry completely sunk in the canal estimated to be around 10 feet deep in its center.

After she was taken into custody and was being transported to the Public Safety Building for processing, Vanderhook allegedly made numerous attempts to offer police officers money in exchange for not pursuing the charges, offers that reportedly began at $20 and reached as high as $200. Ultimately, another charge of bribing or attempting to bribe a public employee was tacked on to her litany of other charges.

This week in District Court, Vanderhook pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to one year in jail, all but one month of which was then suspended. She was then given credit for the 31 days she spent in rehabilitation, resulting in no jail time. The other charges against her, including bribing or attempting to bribe a public employee, were dropped. Vanderhook was also fined $500 and placed on probation for 18 months.