Charged with unauthorized use of vehicle, permitting unlicensed driver in accident that killed 4
BELMONT — A 16-year-old Dansville teenager was charged Monday with unauthorized use of a vehicle without the owner’s consent and permitting unlicensed operation of a vehicle in connection with a July 27 accident in Burns that killed four teenagers.
The 4:30 a.m. crash at the intersection of county Routes 13C and 13 in the Town of Burns killed the vehicle’s driver, Rebecca L. Earner, 16, of Dansville, and three passengers, Ambra E. Eddleton, 16, Justin D. Carpenter, 14, and Krystin L. Wolfanger, 14, all of Dansville.
Front seat passenger Kelsi A. Bird, 16, of Dansville, was airlifted to Strong Memorial Hospital for treatment of multiple injuries, authorities said in July. She was the only person wearing a seat belt as the vehicle failed to stop for a stop sign, crossed the T-intersection and struck a tree above a small earthen embankment, State Police accident reconstruction investigators said.
State Police investigators said speed and driver inexperience played roles in the accident.
The vehicle belonged to a family member of the 16-year-old and was taken without permission, said State Police Inv. Scott A. Cicirello. Under state guidelines, State Police can’t legally provide the name of 16-year-olds who face criminal charges.
The decision to file charges ultimately rested with Allegany County District Attorney Keith A. Slep.
“The district attorney gets our investigative report and goes through it and he makes the decision of what he wants to do as far as criminal charges,” Cicirello said.
As far as the charges not being filed until a month after the crash, Cicirello said, “Whether the person may or may not have had injuries and may or may not have had the ability to be processed at an earlier time. Those are all factors in the situation here.”
The youth was processed by Amity-based State Police and was issued appearance tickets to the Allegany County Probation Department Intake Services.
“From there they make a determination on whether they send it up to Family Court or whether they keep it in house as a probation issue,” Cicirello said.
Unauthorized use of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor. Permitting unlicensed operation is a traffic infraction.
“At this time we do not believe that there is any culpability on the part of any of the parents or relatives involved,” Cicirello noted.
The crash and the deaths of four young people delivered a midsummer gut punch to the close-knit community of Dansville. The incident occurred just days after a young Dansville grad died in a fatal crash in the Cohocton area.
A “Dansville Strong” Facebook page was created to share information about opportunities to remember the victims and grieve together.
On the day after the accident, Dansville Central School made counseling available for students and staff. A community gathering in Babcock Park was the setting for remembrances, tributes and prayers. Students wrote memories in chalk, created a message board for the injured classmate, and released lanterns.
Cicirello acknowledged the emotional toll from the accident.
“This has been a very difficult case for everyone, including obviously the families who were directly affected by this, to the school system, to the first responders involved, and of course law enforcement also,” he said. “We have come to what we believe to be a conclusion at this time unless there is further information that comes forward leading us to believe there should be other charges.”