The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

May 3, 2013

Driver in fatal wreck gets 3 months in jail

SUNBURY — A Shamokin man pleaded guilty in Northumberland County Court Friday to multiple counts —  including involuntary manslaughter —  after a June accident in Zerbe Township which killed one of the passengers in his vehicle.

Kyle Koontz, 19, had initially been charged with felony counts of homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, recklessly endangering another person and driving while under the influence after the accident that killed one of his three passengers — David William Dorsett, 19, of Coal Township — at 9 a.m. June 14, just days after both men had graduated from Shamokin Area High School.

However, as part of a plea agreement reached with county prosecutors, Koontz pleaded guilty Friday in front of Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest to charges of involuntary manslaughter, DUI and reckless driving.

The defendant did not say much during the plea hearing, but Dorsett’s family was overcome with emotion as District Attorney Tony Rosini recounted details of the accident.

Koontz was traveling at a high rate of speed on Anthracite Road in Zerbe Township, failed to negotiate a left curve and lost control of the vehicle, troopers said. Koontz’s car slid across the road, struck a ditch, spun 180 degrees and hit several small trees.

As the vehicle rotated, Dorsett was partially ejected through the right-front passenger window, according to court documents.

Koontz will be sentenced July 29, Wiest said. Prosecutors are recommending three months in prison followed by house arrest, Rosini said.

That doesn’t feel like justice for Dorsett’s death, who was described by family members as a “good kid” who enjoyed sports and had a bright future, said his father, Norman.

“Three months is not enough time,” he said. “My kid’s not getting any justice.”

However, Rosini said that the evidence — including a toxicology report which showed no alcohol in Koontz’s system and only the non-intoxicating metabolite of marijuana — was not there for the more severe charges of homicide by vehicle and aggravated assault by vehicle.

“Under the circumstances, and given the evidence available and the facts involved, we believe this is an appropriate resolution to this case,” he said. “I fully understand that the family of the victim is extremely distraught at the loss of their child ... They have our deepest sympathy for losing a loved one in a tragic incident, but, in the end, we have an ethical obligation to prosecute only charges we have evidence to support.”

It’s a hard pill to swallow for Dorsett’s family, who carried framed pictures of David with them to the hearing and who said they’ll never know exactly what happened that June morning, Norman Dorsett said.

“Justice isn’t fair,” he said. “And David paid the ultimate price.”

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