DUI driver kills 22-year-old woman in 4th of July wrong-way crash, Polk deputies say

Suspect accused of drinking wine, smoking marijuana

Dawn Nathaniel
Dawn Nathaniel (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A woman who had been drinking and smoking marijuana got behind the wheel and caused a fatal wrong-way crash Sunday morning, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said 46-year-old Dawn Nathaniel was driving a 2017 Kia Optima northbound in the southbound lane of Marigold Avenue near Walnut Street at about 5:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July.

[TRENDING: Remaining Fla. condo tower demolished | What ‘dirty side’ of storm means | Shark bites 8-year-old off Fla.]

As they were approaching an intersection, a vehicle that was driving in front of 22-year-old Phalande Celestin’s 2018 Toyota swerved to avoid a crash with Nathaniel’s Kia and although Celestin swerved as well, she was unable to avoid the head-on collision, records show.

Celestin, of Haines City, was found dead in her vehicle, according to a news release.

Deputies said they took Nathaniel, of Kissimmee, to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries and immediately noticed she smelled of alcohol.

Records show Nathaniel admitted to drinking wine and smoking marijuana while in Orlando prior to the crash. Breath samples taken eight hours after the collision put her BAC at .058 and a .059.

“The victim was still very young, her life was really just getting started. But it all comes to an end because someone made the wrong decision to drive after using alcohol and marijuana. I can only offer condolences to the victim’s family and friends, and to promise that our detectives will do all they can to prevent Dawn Nathaniel from getting behind the wheel of a car again anytime soon,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release.

Nathaniel is facing charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI with property damage, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and DUI.