Friend charged in crash death
SHAMOKIN - A city teen was charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and other felony counts Thursday related to the death of his friend nine days after they graduated from Shamokin Area High School in June.
Kyle L. Koontz, 18, of 130 S. Market St., turned himself in to authorities Thursday and was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic, of Shamokin. He was released on $20,000 unsecured bail.
Koontz told police he drank beer and smoked marijuana about five hours before the June 14 crash near Trevorton in which David W. Dorsett, 19, of Coal Township, was killed.
State police trooper Daniel Wilk also charged Koontz with felony aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence and homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person, and summary violations of careless driving and reckless driving.
According to the affidavit, Koontz was driving west in a 1998 Crown Victoria at approximately 9 a.m. on Anthracite Road, a one-lane, dirt road readily accessible via Route 2044 while he and his friends were returning from camping in the mountains the night before.
Police said Koontz was speeding when he failed to negotiate a left turn and the car began to slide. Koontz counter steered to try to regain control, but that action, police said, caused the car to slide back across the road.
Koontz told police he was trying to regain control when he "hit something hard," which threw the vehicle out of control.
The car went off the north side of the road and hit a ditch with its right front corner, causing it to spin clockwise and strike several small trees. Dorsett, sitting in the front passenger seat and not wearing a seat belt was partially ejected at that point, police said. The car then went into a barrel roll and landed on its roof in the middle of the road, pinning Dorsett underneath.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley. An autopsy determined the cause of death as craniocerebral injuries, which Kelley said were suffered in the rollover.
Koontz and the other passengers, Brett J. Case, 19, of Coal Township, a 17-year-old Shamokin male and a 16-year-old Coal Township male, crawled out through the car's windows.
Under the influence
Wilk reported in the affidavit that he could smell alcohol on Koontz's breath during an interview. He exhibited slurred and sluggish speech and had bloodshot eyes, Wilk said.
The trooper asked Koontz if he had been drinking any alcohol, and he allegedly told the trooper he had a couple of beers and smoked a small amount of marijuana at approximately 4 a.m.
A preliminary breath test showed his blood-alcohol content was .014 percent, "which is a positive reading for alcohol," Wilk wrote in the affidavit. The minimum for someone under 21 to be charged with DUI in Pennsylvania, however, is .02 minimum. Blood testing, meanwhile, revealed the compound Delta-9 Carboxy THC, which is found in marijuana, police said.
Wilk was not available Thursday afternoon to verify if the "under the influence" charges apply specifically to the marijuana since the alcohol content was below the legal limit.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before Gembic.