Driver to plead guilty to River Road crash that killed 3

WASHINGTON — A 20-year-old who drove 70 mph over the speed limit in a River Road crash that killed three people earlier this year has agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter.

On Feb. 27, Ogulcan Atakoglu was driving a 2016 BMW M235 when he struck a 2016 Chevy Volt in the westbound lanes of River Road in Bethesda. Michael Buarque De Macedo, 52; his wife Alessandra M. Buarqe De Macedo, 52; and their son Thomas Buarque De Macedo, 18, were killed in the crash.

The other passenger, daughter Helena, a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School, survived the crash with serious injuries. Thomas was a senior at the school.

The family of four was heading to an event at the nearby school.

Atakoglu was traveling 75 mph in a 45 mph zone at the time of the crash, said Montgomery County police. Atakoglu had been driving 115 mph on the road before the impact, police added.

Based on collision analysis, investigators said they believe Atakoglu applied the brakes but not in time to avoid the crash.

Atakoglu, a Potomac resident, agreed to plead guilty in August to three counts of manslaughter by vehicle, according to court documents released Monday.

Court documents outlining the plea deal indicate the three counts carry a maximum 30 year prison sentence, but guidelines range from three months to 12 years.

Atakoglu’s attorney, David Felsen said several factors contributed to the crash, including that the intersections of River Road and Braeburn Parkway — the location of the crash — “has been described by others as a dangerous intersection.”

“The police report, as we understand it, found that there were several causes associated with this particular accident. Mr. Atakoglu is accepting responsibility for his behavior in this,” Felsen said.

Felsen said his client is remorseful for his actions.

“He and his family have had nights sitting around the dining room table crying, expressing their condolences for those who lost their lives.”

Atakoglu had a history of speeding and reckless driving before the fatal crash. In April 2013, he pleaded guilty to speeding, unsafe lane change and reckless driving on Interstate 270. Also, he was cited for driving 85 mph in a 55-mph zone. Later that year, he was cited for violating Maryland law against spinning wheels for which he paid a $70 fine.

In 2014, he was faced negligent driving charges that were later dismissed.

The crash at River Road and Braeburn Parkway sparked neighborhood demands to improve safety at the intersection, and prompted a Maryland State Highway Administration study.

Below is a map with the location of the crash:

Atakoglu is scheduled to enter his plea Aug. 8 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect that Atakoglu was going 70 mph over the speed limit before the crash, not 30 mph.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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