Driver charged in fatal Portsmouth crash

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Portsmouth police have filed charges against the driver in a crash that killed two people and injured a third Friday night.

The crash happened at about 8 p.m. Friday on West Main Road in Portsmouth, when police said that a car driven by 20-year-old Houston Smith of Jamaica Plain crossed into the oncoming lane and hit another vehicle.

Police arraigned Smith at his hospital bed at Rhode Island Hospital Sunday morning and charged him with two counts of driving under the influence, death resulting, transportation of alcohol by a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor, and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. He was released on $50,000 personal recognizance with a court date scheduled for November 30 at Newport District Court.

Two people in that other car police say Smith hit died: 90-year-old Dina Occhi of Portsmouth and 59-year-old Theodore White of Little Compton. The driver of that car, 58-year-old Mary Ann White, was injured and remains hospitalized.

Eyewitness News spoke with Dina’s son, Joe, over the phone. He tells us that this isn’t the first time the family lost a loved one in a crash caused by what police say were people driving under the influence.

According to police his brother Michael was struck and killed by a hit and run drunk driver in Little Compton in 2009. Michael was driving his moped when Thomas Fennessey who was driving his pickup truck hit and killed the 45-year-old Occhi. Fennessey was sentenced to to two years behind bars followed by three years of home confinement. Joe spoke with us days after that incident, telling us about Michael.

“He had three dogs, and several cats and he’s the guy who would stop if he saw a wounded animal on the side of the road.”

According to Joe Occhi, his mother, Dina Occhi and father, opened the Valley Inn Restaurant in Portsmouth in 1957. Joe is now General Manager. Friday’s crash happened just down the road from the restaurant.