Teen driver charged in fatal Montco crash

August 17, 2011 8:36:40 PM PDT
A 19-year-old driver has been charged following a high-speed crash in Montgomery County that left two other teens dead.

Connor McNicholas, of Ambler, has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.

The crash happened around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 6th in a residential area of Horsham, Pa.

Police say a 2007 Honda, with McNicholas behind the wheel, went out of control and veered into a front yard.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said McNicholas' car was traveling at a speed between 97 and 103 miles per hour and traveled approximately 405 feet off the road.

The DA said on Wednesday that two liquor bottles were recovered at the crash scene. Investigators say one of the bottles appeared to have been hidden under a bush after the crash.

Four teenage passengers were in the car. Two were killed - Robert Walker Nagel and Edward Taylor Coombs, both 19.

Autopsies determined that the cause of death for Nagel and Coombs were head injuries sustained in the crash.

The two others injured were 18-year-old Darry Neville of Darby and 19-year-old Tim Kurpiel of Horsham.

Investigators say McNicholas had a blood-alcohol content of .117 after the crash. Ferman says the 19-year-old driver told police he had only had a couple of beers.

"His blood alcohol was .117, which for a young man of his age was about five times the legal limit," Ferman said.

Ferman says McNicholas lied to police about where he had been and claimed to not know the passengers who were actually close friends.

The DA said she asked the Attorney General to prosecute the case because Coombs was a summer intern in the DA's office.

"I heard him described as a young man who was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous student, and an even better person," Ferman said.

McNicholas, a member of the Temple University's golf team, appeared devastated on Wednesday and, in court, he seemed to be on the verge of tears.

"He is very, very upset and he's grieving for his friends and it's a tough situation," McNicholas' attorney Peter Scuderi said.

Bail was set at $500,000 cash.

If convicted of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, McNicholas faces a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

"So in this case you have charges for two deaths, so he is potentially facing six years worth of mandatory minimums," Ferman said.

The DA says there is no evidence an adult knowingly supplied the alcohol. Police believe it is more likely the kids pilfered it from family supplies for an impromptu gathering that changed their lives forever.

In 2008, as many as 492 people died in Pennsylvania in crashes that involved a driver impaired by alcohol. In New Jersey, there were 155 such cases and 121 in Delaware.

Spurred by these grim statistics, a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving starts this Friday.

Local and state police will conduct saturation points and sobriety checkpoints looking for people driving under the influence.

The campaign which began last December during holiday periods will run through the Labor Day weekend. Its aim is to prevent tragedies such as the one that happened to these teens in Montgomery County.

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