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Boulder victim ‘happy to be alive’
Eight years after an event that nearly took her life, Daphne Dudley is thankful to be alive.

Date published: 6/7/2011

Eight years after a boulder landed on her car on Interstate 95 and nearly killed her, Daphne Dudley is living a new life in Atlanta.

The 38-year-old lives with her mother, Wanda Dudley and her sister, Sharmaine Dudley.

On June 8, 2003, Daphne and her husband, Brian Gipson, were driving back to Rochester, N.Y., from their honeymoon at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., when someone pushed a 70-pound granite boulder from the Guinea Station overpass in Spotsylvania County.

No one has been arrested, though the Virginia state police say the case is still open.

Brian Gipson suffered only a cut to his leg, but Daphne’s injuries were much more severe.

She broke almost every bone in her face and suffered brain damage.

Doctors at Inova Fairfax Hospital didn’t expect her to live, but after two months in the hospital and four weeks at a rehabilitation hospital in Rochester, Daphne was able to return home.

“I just tell people I’m happy to be alive,” she said in a phone interview from Atlanta this week.

Upon returning to Rochester after the incident, she moved back in with her mother, the only place she felt at home. Brian didn’t move with her.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Daphne and her mother relocated to Atlanta, to be closer to family members.

Wanda said they needed a change of scenery.

Over the last eight years, Daphne has had 13 surgeries, including facial reconstruction.

Before her injuries, Daphne was a special education teacher in Rochester. She hasn’t been able to return to teaching, but she likes to work out and go to church and the library. She speaks to people about her experience.

The ordeal took a toll on the relationship she had with her new husband. There was tension between the two families when she moved back in with her mother. Daphne and Brian have since divorced.

Daphne counts on her mother as her primary caregiver. It’s a role Wanda cherishes.

“I’m a very caring mother. I love my girls so,” Wanda said. “Regardless of what’s going on in my life, my biggest concern is their welfare.”

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Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Spotsylvania Crime Solvers toll free at 800/928-5822 or 540/582-5822.