A 24-year-old East Greenville man who was driving the car that crashed into the West Branch of the Perkiomen Creek in April 2012, killing his passenger, has been found guilty by a Montgomery County jury.
Authorities said Howard A. Christy II, of the 500 block of Blaker Drive, was convicted last Thursday after a four-day trial on charges of homicide by vehicle while DUI, accidents involving death while not properly licensed, DUI and possession of a small amount of marijuana stemming from the crash on April 29, 2012 in the 200 block of Paper Mill Road in Douglass (Montgomery) Township.
That crash killed Etinye Usoro, 21, of East Greenville.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill deferred sentencing until court officials can complete a background investigation of Christy. That investigation will include drug and alcohol evaluations. Christy will be free on bail until sentencing under an agreement that he won't drive or drink alcohol.
Christy will face a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison on the homicide by vehicle charge. Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Quigg, and co-prosecutor Stewart Ryan, will reportedly look for at least three years in prison against Christy.
Officials said Christy was not licensed to drive at the time of the collision and possessed only a PA photo ID card. He reportedly testified during the trial that he never learned how to drive and couldn't recall driving at the time of the crash. Authorities said the two friends allegedly spent a few hours drinking a half bottle of vodka and cranberry juice as they drove through New Hanover.
Authorities said Christy was driving Usoro's Pontiac Sunbird east on Paper Mill Road when he failed to negotiate a right curve approaching the bridge. According to court documents, he drove 63 feet across a grassy area before driving off the side of the bridge retaining wall. The car traveled 44 feet in the air before flipping onto its roof into about 3 to 4 feet of water.
Officials said there were no signs of the car braking either on the road or in the grass.
The affidavit of probable cause stated Christy and Etinye Usoro, 21, of Morris Road, East Greenville, were both wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. Christy was able to free himself and find an air pocket inside the partially submerged vehicle, but Usoro was not.
Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Walter Hofman ruled Usoro drowned as a result of the crash.
Both men were discovered around 10:45 a.m. by a passer-by who was walking with his sons and a nephew along the roadway. According to the affidavit, the passer-by went into the water to reach the car and, once he got inside through a rear passenger door, he saw Christy's hand.
After freeing Christy from some nylon netting, he pulled him from the car, out of the water and onto the bank. Police said the man sent his sons to call 911. Christy was suffering from hypothermia after being in the water for an extended period of time.
Usoro was later extracted from the passenger seat by Gilbertsville Fire Company personnel.
Officials said during that extraction, a partially full bottle of vodka floated out of the car. Christy's pants, which were removed in order to free him from the vehicle, were searched at the scene by Douglass Township Police Cpl. Brian Steffie, who reportedly found a green leafy substance in a pocket consistent with marijuana and a wallet containing his ID.
Police said at the hospital, Christy denied consuming any alcohol and simply said he lost control of his car.
Subsequent blood tests revealed Christy's blood alcohol concentration was .12 upon his admittance to Lehigh Valley Hospital 12 hours after the collision. His blood also contained THC, a metabolite of marijuana, police said.
The vehicle, which was removed from the creek, was inspected and was found to have no mechanical failures or defects, authorities said.