Alabama Doctor Charged in Death of 24-Year-Old Medical Student After Crashing Car While Driving 138 MPH

Neurosurgeon Johnathan Nakhla was charged in death of medical student Samantha Alison Thomas.
Mobile Police Department; Facebook

The family of Samantha Thomas filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging Johnathan Nakhla's reckless behavior caused the deadly crash.

A prominent Alabama neurosurgeon was drunk when he crashed his high-performance vehicle while topping 138 mph in a 45 mph-zone, killing his passenger, an aspiring medical student last month, prosecutors said. Johnathan Nakhla, 36, has been charged with manslaughter in the death of 24-year-old Samantha Alison Thomas, officials said.

A lawsuit was also filed in Mobile Circuit Court Sept. 2 by the family of Thomas against Nakhla.

Nakhla’s blood-alcohol content was allegedly found to be above the legal limit of .08, according to the Mobile Police Department. 

Investigators said Nakhla was driving on the Interstate 65 Service Road on Aug. 1 when his vehicle left the road and collided with a concrete ditch dividing I-65 from the service road. 

Thomas and Nakhla were allegedly caught on surveillance video-sharing drinks by the pool at the apartment complex where they both lived, according to the traffic homicide investigator who testified during the preliminary hearing. 

The investigator said Nakhla told him he and Thomas were going to get ice cream from a fast-food restaurant. 

The video shows the pair leaving the complex at 12:36 a.m. The crash happened at 12:41 a.m.

The investigator testified that Nakhla said he unbuckled Thomas’ seat belt after the crash to try to provide medical aid, only to realize she was already dead. Once he was placed in an ambulance, first responders said Nakhla made comments about his luxury Audi R8 Spyder convertible, known to cost $200,000, and his “very expensive” watch, not appearing to be sad about Thomas’ death, WKRG-News 2 reported.

Nakhla, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, also allegedly made a call inside the ambulance and could be heard saying, “I know, baby, you loved that car,” according to the testimony. 

One of Nakhla’s attorneys, Dennis Knizley, said that the speed data from his client's car was unreliable since it had rolled over before coming to rest in a ditch, reported the NY Post.

After he was charged with manslaughter, Nakhla was allegedly fired from his position from the hospital at which he worked, reported by multiple news reports.

Harold Thomas, Thomas’ father, filed a lawsuit last week “blaming Dr. Nakha for the crash and his daughter’s death,” according to a press release. 

The suit said that Nakhla’s vehicle struck a guardrail, rolled six times before striking a light pole and landing upside down. It was also noted that his car continued from there before coming to a stop in a ditch.

Joe King, Thomas’s attorney, said the family is seeking punitive damages to “punish and deter Nakhla’s conduct, and demands a jury trial." A date for that trial has not yet been established, WHNT-19 News reported.

Thomas was described as a young woman who “excelled in life.” She graduated valedictorian from Guntersville High School. She went on to graduate with honors at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

She earned a scholarship to attend medical school at the University of Southern Alabama and was in her third year. Family members said she was the first in her family to attend medical school.

The NY Post reported that Thomas was a family friend of Nakhla, and a married father of two.

“Samantha excelled in life and her life reflected her desire to help those in need,” family members said.

To honor her memory, the Thomas family has started a memorial scholarship in their daughter's name to help disadvantaged medical students at the University of South Alabama, WHNT-19 reported. 

"It is the family's hope and desire that Dr. Jonathan Nakhla will accept responsibility for his actions that caused the death of Samantha," King said in a statement reported by WHTN-19. "The family is confident that, regardless of any efforts to avoid responsibility, the justice system will hold Nakhla accountable.”

Nakhla has not been charged with driving under the influence. His final toxicology results are still pending, according to authorities.

Nakhla pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, and was released from jail on a $200,000 bond.