The Wayne County, Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office announced last week that there will be charges against a 15 year old driver and her father in a fatal car crash on August 30, 2014 on Goosepond Road in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. That fateful day, a 15 year old driver from Pleasantville, New York was allegedly given permission by her father, Michael Ware, to drive his 2001 Chevrolet Suburban to a diner for breakfast. In the vehicle were five other teenagers, including three Bucks County, Pennsylvania teens, Ryan Lesher, Shamus Digney, and Cullen Keffer, who were all killed in the accident when the underage driver was apparently going too fast and flipped the vehicle. Another two teens, including the driver’s friend from Westchester County, NY, survived the horrific crash.
Witnesses allegedly heard some of the occupants screaming at the driver to slow down moments before the accident. When the police arrived at the scene, the driver is alleged to have exclaimed: “I was driving too fast, arrest me”, as she placed her hands in front of her, expecting to be handcuffed. The driver’s father, Michael Ware, 53, of Eastchester, New York, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, endangering the welfare of children, and other crimes not yet identified. Ware was arraigned in the Wayne County Courthouse on December 17, 2014, and pled not guilty to all charges.
There is interesting evidentiary conflict in the versions of events as described by Mr. Ware, and his fifteen year old unlicensed daughter, with regard to his knowledge and consent for his daughter to operate the vehicle. Ware’s daughter, who is being charged for the deaths in juvenile Court, purportedly informed investigators that her father gave her permission to operate the vehicle at the time of the fatal crash, and on previous occasions, including earlier that morning when she drove to a local Dunkin Donuts. The daughter’s friend from Westchester County also told police that Mr. Ware walked the two girls to the car and placed an egg sandwich order before his teenage daughter drove off in the car. However, Mr. Ware denies that he gave his daughter permission to operate the vehicle. According to police, the Suburban was travelling at a high rate of speed on Goose Pond Road, which is described as a hilly, winding, two lane roadway with a 40 m.p.h. speed limit. The vehicle allegedly went out of control in a left hand curve, one of the right tires went off the roadway, and the car flipped several times. Ryan Lesher was pinned under the vehicle and Shamus Digney and Cullen Keffer were thrown from the car. One of the 15 year old boys was pronounced dead at the scene and two others were taken to local hospitals where they later died.
Under both New York and Pennsylvania law, an operator of a motor vehicle must be at least 16 years of age to obtain a learner’s permit. Both states require that 16 year old drivers travel with a licensed driver who is at least 18 years of age. In New York State, if charged with criminally negligent homicide, which is an E felony, a driver could face up to 4 years in prison on this charge. For vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, a driver could face up to 7 years in jail for this D felony. Possible other charges include misdemeanor reckless driving, the less serious criminal charge of unlicensed operation, and the traffic infraction of speeding.
Because the driver is under 16, she will be charged under the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act and under this statute, the details will not be made public. Mr. Ware was released on $100,000 bond and must return to Court on December 30, 2014.
Contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 914-224-3086 if you are charged with a crime or a traffic infraction for a free consultation to discuss your case in detail, and your legal rights and options.