VW Club members planned a special memorial ride Saturday in honor of a 25-year-old Clairemont resident who was recently killed in a head-on collision with a suspected drunk driver.
At around 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, Jayme Midlam was killed when DUI suspect April Thompson, 23, crashed head-on into Midlam’s 1972 Volkswagen Beetle on eastbound State Route 52 near the Mast Boulevard exit in Santee.
CHP officials said Thompson was driving her Chevy 2500 pickup truck the wrong way on the road when she fatally crashed into Midlam.
The pickup truck totaled Midlam’s much smaller vehicle and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Thompson was transported to a local hospital with moderate injuries. CHP officials suspected she was driving under the influence of alcohol during the fatal collision.
After receiving treatment for her injuries, Thompson was booked into Las Colinas Detention Facility on DUI charges and gross vehicular manslaughter.
On Thursday, she pleaded not guilty in court to the charges surrounding the deadly crash.
Prosecutors said Thompson had a blood-alcohol level that was double the legal limit when she drove the wrong way on SR-52 over the New Year holiday weekend.
She now faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Thompson is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday and then again on Jan. 14.
On Saturday, VW Club members -- many of whom didn't know Midlam -- celebrated his life with a memorial ride into Clairemont.
The group invited anyone that drives a VW Beetle to join in Midlam’s honor, gathering just before 2 p.m. in the 3400 block of Clairemont Drive. The colorful cars lined up right across the street from a Clairemont church where a private memorial service was being held for Midlam.
NBC 7 spoke with a family spokesperson who said Midlam’s grief-stricken loved ones weren't quite ready to comment on his death. His loved ones were visibly touched and overwhelmed by the line of VW Bugs all there to honor Midlam.
At it's peak, 50 to 60 VW cars joined in the remembrance ride. The cars boasted signs on their windows with messages for Midlam that read "RIP VW Brother."
Even though most of the VW participants didn’t personally know Midlam, many said they felt compelled to honor the young San Diegan and lend their support to his grieving family.
“[I] just found out he was a VW enthusiast and I wanted to show support to the family,” said VW owner Glan Pablo. “It’s a terrible thing that happened.”
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Another participant, Dori McLauren, said she wanted to show love for the fellow “VW Brother.”
“It doesn't matter whether you know him or not,” said McLauren. “We’re here to support him and his family. What happened was extremely tragic and unnecessary and we're here to show our love for him.”
Ride organizer Rusty Leininger felt it was important to show Midlam’s family they’re not alone during this difficult time.
“So we all came down and showed his family that they're not alone; we've all lost somebody. It's nice to know there [are] other people out there that support you,” said Leininger.
In addition to the long line of VW Bugs, a UPS delivery truck also parked outside the Clairemont church. Midlam worked for UPS for six years, so the company wanted to pay their respects too.
During the memorial ride, the VW Club raised $300 for Midlam’s family.
Midlam also worked at Smashburger, and all Smashburger restaurants across San Diego are now accepting donations in his name. Those who wish to donate to Midlam’s fund can do so at any local Smashburger location.