Father of unlicensed driver in fatal crash denies having let her drive his SUV

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2014 4:33 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A man whose 15-year-old daughter, an unlicensed driver, crashed his SUV in an accident in Pennsylvania that killed three people denies having given her permission to drive the vehicle, his attorney said on Thursday.

The father, Michael J. Ware, was charged on Wednesday with manslaughter.

Pennsylvania State Police on Wednesday filed 13 criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children, against Ware, 53, of Scarsdale, New York. Ware owns a vacation home in Wallenpaupack Lake Estates in the Pocono Mountains, about a mile (1.6 km) from where the accident occurred on Aug. 30.

To win a conviction, the district attorney would need to prove that Ware allowed his daughter to drive and would then need to show a direct link between granting permission and the accident, said Robert Reno, Ware's lawyer.

"It's a stretch," Reno said. "It's a very sensational legal theory they're proposing."

The daughter was charged in juvenile court, the office of Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said in a statement on Wednesday.

The district attorney's office did not say what charges the daughter was facing or provide the location of the court. It declined further comment.

"This was a horrific tragedy and unfortunately one that could have so easily been prevented," Edwards said. "The law must be followed in order to prevent such a tragedy in the future."

Police said it was not the first time Ware had allowed his daughter to drive his sport utility vehicle, a Chevy Suburban. She had driven it the day before the Aug. 30 accident from their Scarsdale home to their vacation home, they said.

Under New York law, no one under age 16 in the state can obtain a driver’s license.

Ware allegedly waved good-bye as his daughter and a girlfriend drove away on Aug. 30, intending to get her father an egg sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts and pick up four boys from Bucks County to go to a barbecue restaurant.

According to court documents, Ware's daughter was driving at a high rate of speed, ignoring pleas from her passengers to slow down, when she lost control and crashed.

Cullen Keffer, 15, of Holland, Pennsylvania; Shamus Digney, 15, also of Holland; and Ryan Lesher, 15, of Churchville, Pennsylvania; died of their injuries. All were students at Council Rock South High School in Bucks County. The other three teenagers in the car were injured but survived.

Ware faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 30 at Central Court in Honesdale.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)