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Family seeks answers about Penn Township man's death in Jamaica

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

More questions than answers exist for the family of a Westmoreland County man believed to have drowned in Jamaica last weekend while awaiting trial on charges he was drunk when he killed a central Pennsylvania driver last year, the family's attorney said.

Jamaican police said on Monday that they recovered the body of David McCormick, 43, of Penn Township, who they speculate drowned while swimming off the island's western coast, a spokesman for the Jamaica Constabulary Force said. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday afternoon in Montego Bay to determine the exact cause of death, the spokesman said.

McCormick was the son of Greensburg attorney Tim McCormick, who died in 2012, and the nephew of Westmoreland County President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.

McCormick was facing a possible six years in prison if convicted in the 2013 death of Francis Cossick, 66, of Camp Hill, Cumberland County, on Route 22 last December. McCormick, who had a blood-alchohol content of 0.197 percent — above the 0.08 percent legal limit — was charged with homicide while driving under the influence, speeding, recklessly endangering another person and reckless driving in connection with Cossick's death. McCormick was traveling 107 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone when he struck the rear of Cossick's vehicle, according to court records. His trial was scheduled for August.

Attorney Bernard T. McArdle of Greensburg said McCormick's family has been unable to learn the circumstances surrounding the death or whether there was anyone nearby who could have saved him.

“That's what's so troubling for the family,” said McArdle. “All they know is lifeguards found him floating in the water. How populated was the beach? Was he out there by himself when he got into trouble?”

McArdle said there likely won't be any public services.

“The question is whether to bring the body back or have him cremated there,” he added.

McCormick's body was found Saturday in the water near the Moon Dance Hotel. The resort is in Negril in the Westmoreland Parish of the island. McCormick was vacationing at the resort, McArdle said. It is not known whether anyone accompanied him to the resort.

Kenneth Burkley, McCormick's defense attorney, said he was not under any travel restrictions that prevented his client from leaving the country. He said the only restriction placed on McCormick was that he was not allowed to drive. McCormick was free on $25,000 unsecured bond.

Pitt law school professor John Burkoff questions why McCormick was allowed to travel outside the United States while serious charges were pending. There are no automatic restrictions imposed under state law in such cases, he said.

“It's a surprise to me he was allowed out of the country,” Burkoff said. “It's unusual. Maybe the judge thought he wasn't a flight risk.”

McCormick, a Pitt graduate, formerly worked as an aide to then-U.S. Rep. Frank Mascara, D-Charleroi, and was employed by Global Towers Partners, a cell phone tower leasing company.

McCormick was the second Pennsylvania resident to drown in Jamaica this month. A Philadelphia man died in Mammee Bay in Saint Ann's Parish, which is at the north end of the island.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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