A 23-year-old East Greenville man who was driving the car that crashed into the West Branch of the Perkiomen Creek April 29, killing his passenger, has been arrested on homicide by vehicle charges.
According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, Howard A. Christy II, of the 500 block of Blaker Drive, was allegedly under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana between midnight and 1 a.m. that day when he drove his white 1998 Pontiac Sunfire off the Papermill Road, Douglass (Mont.) bridge.
Officials said Christy was not licensed to drive at the time of the collision and possessed only a PA photo ID card.
First Asst. District Attorney Kevin Steele said Christy was east on the roadway 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, identified as Chris Harwick, who was walking with his sons and a nephew along the roadway. According to the affidavit, Harwick 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 Harwick 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.
His vehicle, which was removed from the creek, was inspected and was found to have no mechanical failures or defects.
Christy was charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed, driving under the influence – highest rate of alcohol, driving under the influence—controlled substance, careless and reckless driving and related offenses in Gilbertsville District Court.
In a press release Friday, DA Ferman reminded the public about the risk and loss that come with drinking and driving.
“It is not a victimless crime. In drinking and driving, the safety of the driver, passengers and innocent motorists and pedestrians are all placed at risk. Be safe. If you drink, call a family member or friend to be a designated driver to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.”
Christy was arraigned by District Judge Maurice Saylor Friday at 3:30 p.m. on $85,000 secured bail. Court officials said Christy posted bail and is awaiting a preliminary hearing in Gilbertsville District Court June 4 at 11:30 a.m.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Quigg and Colleen McIntyre.