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South Greensburg man convicted in crash that kills friend

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Westmoreland County jurors deliberated for more than three hours and found a South Greensburg man guilty of causing a fatal car crash that killed his best friend.

The jury on Wednesday convicted David O'Hara, 24, of one count of vehicular homicide for the April 11, 2009 crash on Swede Hill Road in Hempfield that killed 20-year-old Tyler Bridges.

The jury found that O'Hara was driving under the influence, but that his alcohol consumption did not cause him to lose control of his car and slam into a tree head-on.

Jurors acquitted O'Hara of the most serious charge, homicide by vehicle while driving drunk, which carries a mandatory sentence of three to six years in prison.

Defense attorney Jeff Monzo said that by virtue of the conviction, O'Hara faces three to 12 months in jail under standard sentencing guidelines.

“We're pleased with the verdict,” Monzo said. “His (O'Hara's) reaction is that he wakes up every day wishing he could take back that night his friend was killed.”

Assistant District Attorney Greg DeFloria could not be reached for comment.

During the three-day trial, the prosecution contended that O'Hara's drinking led to the fatal crash.

DeFloria presented evidence that O'Hara had a blood-alcohol level of 0.144 percent at the time of the crash, seven times the 0.02 percent limit at which an underage motorist is considered to be intoxicated in Pennsylvania. O'Hara was 20 at the time of the crash.

Police witnesses said O'Hara was speeding when he failed to negotiate a curve in the road. His car was traveling 56 mph when it hit the tree, according to the prosecution.

The defense argued the dangerous condition of the road caused the crash.

Dr. Ron Eck, a civil engineer from West Virginia, testified Wednesday that the road had inadequate advance warning of a curve, did not properly show drivers the twisting path, and had inadequate banking and a narrow, unstable shoulder.

“It would cause a driver to make erratic movements,” Eck said of the road's condition.

O'Hara will remain free on $25,000 unsecured bail until he is sentenced by Judge Debra A. Pezze in about three months.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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