Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/17/11
A Horsham teen accused of driving drunk and speeding has been charged with numerous felony counts in connection with a one-car crash that killed two of his friends, both lacrosse players, 11 days ago, according to authorities.
Connor James McNicholas, 19, was arraigned in district court and charged with two counts of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol, two charges of homicide by motor vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol, lying to police and related offenses for the crash that took the lives of Eddie Coombs and Robert Nagle, two of his fellow 2010 Hatboro-Horsham High School graduates.
Two other passengers and McNicholas suffered minor injuries. All five attended Hatboro-Horsham and were friends, authorities said.
Coombs and Nagel, both 19, were key players on the Hatters’ team that shared a league championship and advanced to the state tournament in 2010. Coombs had enjoyed a standout freshman season last year at Marist College.
The accident occurred at 1:15 a.m. Aug. 6 on Witmer Road near Norristown Road. McNicholas, driving at an estimated speed of 97 to 103 miles per hour, lost control of the car, authorities said.
The teens had just left a small gathering where they were drinking, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
McNicholas had a blood-alcohol level of .117 percent, more than five times the legal limit of .02 percent for an underage person. The DUI level for adults is .08.
The homicide by vehicle while DUI charges each carries a mandatory three-year prison sentence. Cash bail was set at $500,000 by District Judge Paul N. Leo.
At the arraignment it was stated that McNicholas was driving his four passengers home from a gathering in a 2007 Honda Civic. He was traveling west on Witmer Road when he lost control of the vehicle around a slight curve in the roadway.
The road was posted 35 mph and was reduced to 25 mph at the curve.
McNicholas was driving at speeds of between 97 and 103 mph police estimated. One passenger had told authorities he saw a reading of 99 mph on the car’s digital speed display, according to the criminal complaint.
Authorities said in the reconstruction that the car crossed over the oncoming lane, went over a five-inch curb and crossed a sidewalk and grassy area for about 75 feet before entering Wade Avenue. The vehicle continued across Wade Avenue, driving over another curb and onto a lawn where it struck and sheared a 20-foot tree about 60 feet later.
The vehicle continued to travel across the lawn for an additional 182 feet before striking a second tree head on, rotating about 90 degrees around that tree before finally stopping, according to the reconstruction.
Only McNicholas was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Police found three open bottles of alcohol at the crash scene.