Lawyer blames dangerous road for crash that killed passenger
Westmoreland County jurors will have to decide if a Hempfield man was too drunk to drive or whether a dangerous road caused the death of his best friend in a car crash more than three years ago.
During opening arguments Tuesday in the vehicular homicide trial of David O'Hara, 24, the prosecution said alcohol was to blame for the violent crash on Swede Hill Road on April 11, 2009, that killed 20-year-old Tyler Bridges.
“The defendant allowed his vehicle to drift off the roadway and hit a tree head-on,” said Assistant District Attorney Greg DeFloria.
Three police witnesses testified that O'Hara, who was 20 at the time, was drunk when he lost control of his 1990 Acura Legend.
DeFloria told jurors that O'Hara's blood-alcohol content was 0.144 percent — seven times the limit at which a motorist who is a minor is considered to be intoxicated. Underage drivers in Pennsylvania are considered to be drunk with a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 percent.
O'Hara also was charged with speeding, although state police accident reconstructionist Bradley H. Overdorff testified he could not calculate how fast the Acura was traveling when it left the roadway.
State police Sgt. Michael Schmidt testified that O'Hara's car was traveling 56 mph when the car hit the tree. The speed limit on that section of Swede Hill Road is 35 mph, Schmidt said.
The defense contends the road itself, and not O'Hara's driving or his alcohol consumption, caused the crash and Bridges' death.
Defense attorney Jeff Monzo said the curve is too dangerous and drivers are not properly warned of road conditions.
Monzo told jurors that in the 15 months before the fatal crash, there were three accidents near the Swede Hill Road curve. And three months after the fatal crash, PennDOT installed a warning sign alerting motorists to the curve, Monzo said in his opening statement.
“This case was a car accident — a tragic car accident. It was a dangerous, unsafe curve that caused this accident and Tyler Bridges' death,” Monzo said.
The trial will continue Wednesday morning before Judge Debra Pezze.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mt. Pleasant-based author details area’s ‘Hidden History’
- Westmoreland, Fayette towns prepare to ring in holidays
- 7 arrested in Latrobe-area drug dealing
- Westmoreland, Fayette groups open doors to share Thanksgiving meals
- Woman to stand trial in Jeannette tot’s death
- 20 charged in Western Pennsylvania drug crackdown
- Man taken to hospital from scene of Hempfield house fire
- Psychologist’s compassion buoyed students, friends
- Woman admits to theft of 2 weapons in Latrobe shooting case
- New Stanton council hikes garbage fees to $13.65 per month
- Westmoreland County sheriff won’t alter staffing as cash runs out