Police have issued an array of criminal charges again the teen driver in the single-car accident on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road that claimed the life of 18-year-old Jena Pothier last week, including motor vehicle homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol.
West Tisbury police cited Kelly McCarron, 17, of Oak Bluffs, with 12 charges, eight criminal and four civil. The criminal charges include four counts of motor vehicle homicide, five counts of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, four counts of negligent operation and two counts of serious injury.
Civil violations include passing in a no passing zone, excessive speed, failure to wear a seat belt and a tire tread depth violation.
A funeral for Ms. Pothier was held Wednesday.
Ms. McCarron was seriously injured in the crash and remains in stable condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Police said charges were issued to a person designated as Ms. McCarron’s agent because she is still in the hospital.
No date has been set for arraignment.
West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey said both speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, but said she could not go into further detail because the investigation remains ongoing.
Among other things investigators are waiting for a report from the Massachusetts State Police accident reconstruction unit, and also for the results of forensic evidence gathered in the investigation.
Chief Toomey said two eyewitnesses who saw the crash confirmed the vehicle driven by Ms. McCarron was heading up-Island when it passed a vehicle while another car was oncoming. The accident occurred along a stretch of road designated as a no-passing zone marked with double solid lines.
Chief Toomey said police are now focusing on the whereabouts of the two young women prior to the crash. Investigators have sorted through various pieces of information and are now close to establishing a firm timeline and sequence of events leading up to the crash, the chief said.
“There are a lot of rumors out there, probably because so many people are talking about this. But we’re making progress,” she said.
West Tisbury police were dispatched at 9:59 p.m. last Thursday to the scene of the crash, approximately one mile from the entrance to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Police observed a young woman lying near the shoulder of the road, later identified as Ms. McCarron. A second young woman, later identified as Ms. Pothier, was pinned in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.
Both women were transported to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Due to foggy weather conditions, Med Flight was unable to operate; the U.S. Coast Guard station at Woods Hole dispatched a 44-foot motor lifeboat to take Ms. McCarron to Woods Hole where an ambulance transported her to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Oak Bluffs ambulance chief John Rose and paramedic Julie Lindland traveled with Ms. McCarron.
Occurring three days before graduation, the fatal crash cast a pall over the Island, especially at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said grief counselors continue to be available to talk with students and teachers.
The tragedy hit especially hard for Tom and Barbara Furino of Edgartown, who lost their 17-year-old son David and his best friend Kevin H. Johnson in a car crash in 2004. Mr. and Mrs. Furino subsequently created the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Drive for Life, which seeks to bring driver’s education back to all high schools in Massachusetts, save lives and reduce vehicle-related crashes.
Mr. Furino said he received a call at 2:30 a.m. on Friday from Jena’s father, Dave Pothier, a close friend of the family, who told him about the accident. He said he went to the Pothier home immediately and offered whatever help he could.
“All you can do in that situation is go in and hold them. Nothing you can say can make it better. I just went there and cried with them . . . we all knew and loved Jena, this is a loss for all of us,” he said.
Mr. Furino said the accident underscores the need for improved driver instruction at the high school level, but said that is something to be addressed in the future.
“There are things that can be done to hopefully prevent this type of tragedy in the future, but right now our thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Terry [Pothier],” he said.