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Driver Charged with Homicide, DUI in Fatal Crash

Hatboro-Horsham 2010 graduates Edward Coombs and Robert Nagel died in the Aug. 6 crash.

The driver of an  that claimed the lives of two 2010 Hatboro-Horsham graduates faces a minimum six years behind bars.

Connor James McNicholas, 19, of Bryant Court in Ambler, has been arrested and charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol. The 1:19 a.m. crash on Aug. 6 claimed the lives of and , both 19, of Horsham.

Authorities said McNicholas' blood alcohol level measured .117 at the time of the crash. An analysis at Abington Memorial Hospital, where McNicholas and two other passengers were transported for minor injuries, shows a range between .109 and .134, according to court documents.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said during a press conference Wednesday that McNicholas' blood alcohol level was more than five times the legal limit of .02 for a 19-year-old. 

Vetri Ferman said a crash reconstruction determined that McNicholas was driving his 2007 Honda Civic between 97 and 103 miles per hour on the 25-mile-per-hour section of Witmer Road in Horsham when he lost control of the vehicle, struck a curb and drove 405 feet onto a homeowner’s Wade Avenue property. 

McNicholas has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

District Judge Paul Leo, who arraigned McNicholas Wednesday afternoon, set bail at $500,000, representing $250,000 for each victim. McNicholas’ attorney, Peter Scuderi, said several hours after the arraignment that McNicholas' family was trying to post bail. 

Scuderi had argued that the bail amount was too high because his client’s BAC was “not incredibly high.” Scuderi added that McNicholas’ parents, who were in court Wednesday, “are good people.”

Scuderi said McNicholas, a Temple University student and caddy at , has been seeing a psychiatrist and is said to be a “suicide risk.”

“He had a lethal weapon,” Leo responded. “He took two lives.”

McNicholas, clad in a black blazer, khaki pants and loafers, hung his head as he was led from the Horsham police car into the Hatboro court building. McNicholas, as well as his parents, declined comment.

In court, McNicholas answered the judge’s questions so softly that his attorney had to relay his responses.

If convicted, Vetri Ferman said McNicholas faces a “three-year mandatory minimum” for each of the two homicide by vehicle charges. He has also been charged with reckless driving, careless driving, two counts of speeding, as well as a half dozen other charges, according to court documents.

Scuderi said McNicholas is a “top student” at Temple and a “top player” on the golf team. The crash and the events leading up to it were out of character for him, Scuderi said.

“He’s a good kid,” Scuderi said.

Vetri Ferman said that aside from McNicholas, none of the passengers in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts. Nagel, who was riding in the front seat, and Coombs, a passenger in the rear middle of the car, died from head injuries sustained in the crash, according to their autopsies.

The two other passengers who survived the crash, Timothy Kurpiel, 19, of Horsham, and Darryl Neville Jr., of Darby, do not face charges, Vetri Ferman said, adding that she did not have their blood alchol levels.

She did say, however, that all of the teens were believed to have been drinking. Several alcoholic beverage containers were found in the car, Vetri Ferman said.

“This is not a case where the adults provided,” Vetri Ferman said of the home where the teens were said to have been drinking. “Parents at that residence were home sleeping.”

Horsham Police Chief Robert Ruxton said the home is less than two miles away from the site of the crash, which happened near Norristown Road.

Vetri Ferman said adults have not been identified as being responsible for providing the alcohol.

“They snuck it from places,” Vetri Ferman said of McNicholas and his four passengers. “Adults around them didn’t know.”

Vetri Ferman said that because Coombs had been a summer intern at the district attorney’s office, her office has turned the case over to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly. Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo would be prosecuting the case, she said. 

Betty Ann August 25, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Thank you SG123 and Patrick! You both speak intelligently and with maturity. You said what I have been feeling and wanting to say myself. I try not to judge people as that is not for me to do nor will it help. Connor serving time in prison will not help anyone and according to articles written on drunk driving will not prevent further "drunk drivers". I have no answers but if any of you bloggers want to help these tragically hurt families please stop being so cruel in what you say. Betty Ann
Coombs53 August 26, 2011 at 11:16 PM
This will be my one and only post. If you're going to Pray, then Pray but people should watch what they say. Stay off the blogs and go educate someone. This is even for the ones who has all the answers.
Citizen Shell September 02, 2011 at 03:28 AM
I was under the impression that if you do the crime, you were to do the time. PERIOD.
sg123 September 02, 2011 at 09:29 PM
@bob, i think you may need a hobby or something. it seems you have an awful lot of time on your hands. that is all you seem to be dwelling and or harping on, the fact that connor has a sport that he is good and has excelled in it. it almost seems as though you are jealous. as for you comment about "him letting families beg" please dont disrespect the families like that. that is nothing short of ignorant and uncalled for. did anyone knock on your door for money? did anyone ask you for anything? none of the families asked anyone for money. any monetary donations were completely and strickly voluntary. maybe you should get your facts correct and straight before making comments that are so ignorant and disrepectful. the boys families and friends are living and trying to deal with what happened. this is in the courts hands and it does not matter what you or i or anyone else has to say. there will be a trail, what happens there is up to a jury (if there is one). the families dont have the answers i dont have the answers and you surely dont have the answers or even a clue. there are no answers. whatever the outcome. so my advise to you is to get a grip, stop with the judgement until you walk a mile in any of their shoes, and find something else to bitch about because there are plenty of things going on to comment about. please give these families the peace and respect in which they deserve.
Kerry November 01, 2011 at 08:28 AM
To all the people praying for Connor and his family and showing Connor support: are you f***ing kidding me? He is a GROWN man, and what the hell does him being good at golf have to do with anything? He KILLED two innocent young men with his irresponsible, reckless, drunken behavior, and he deserves to rot in prison. There is absolutely no excuse for him getting behind the wheel of that car and putting the lives of four other people in danger because he thought it was cool to take a joyride down Witmer rd. at 99 m.p.h.

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