As the district attorney prepares to file a charge of intoxication manslaughter against the 19-year-old driver in last week’s crash at Pecan Plantation that killed another teen, plans for a safe ride program for underage drinkers has stirred concerns about liability and mixed messages.
Sheriff Roger Deeds said late Thursday that Marcus Click, the driver in the crash that killed fellow Granbury High School graduate Luke Urbanovsky, was home from the hospital and a warrant for his arrest was awaiting a magistrate’s signature.
However, he said that no determination has been made on when the former varsity football player will surrender to authorities. Click sustained two broken legs and other injuries in the crash on Ravenswood Road that occurred at about 2:45 a.m. last Saturday.
“It would be tough,” Deeds said, referring to how jailers would handle caring for someone with Click’s injuries. “That’s why I’m not racing into any decisions. I don’t believe this boy’s a flight risk in any way, shape or form. He will be arrested, there’s no doubt about that. But I’m not going to say he’s going to be arrested today, tomorrow or even next week.”
District Attorney Rob Christian said the surrender probably will “have to do with his (Click’s) health.” He also stated that, although the bond amount is not yet known, the bond will likely be paid and Click will not be put in jail. The D.A. said the young man is represented by attorney Richard Hattox.
Christian said that Click will be charged with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony that carries the possibility of up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He said that other felony charges likely will be added before he presents the case to the grand jury, but that is a typical occurrence and does not necessarily mean a “piling on” that will result in additional punishment.
Deeds said that investigators met on Wednesday with an assistant county attorney, but that no decision has yet been made regarding the Class A misdemeanor charges of providing alcohol to minors that are expected to be filed against 19-year-old Shelbi Hardin. Hardin hosted an underage drinking party at her home on Valcour Court, authorities said. Click and Urbanovsky had just left the party and were believed to be headed to Click’s home in the 9200 block of Ravenswood when the accident occurred in the 9600 block, authorities said.
Law enforcement officials said that Hardin and seven others were at the house when sheriff’s deputies and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) arrived at 5:17 a.m. Saturday morning. It was determined that one of the six 19-year-olds present had not been drinking, and she was allowed to leave, they said. One person who was present is 18, and the other is 21.
Deeds said that two members of the group were transported to the hospital for possible alcohol poisoning.
Deeds and TABC Maj. Charlie Cloud said that charges may also be filed against Hardin’s mother, Brenda, a teacher at Granbury Middle School who was in the Houston area when the party was held. Deeds said Thursday that the investigation on whether Brenda Hardin played a role in the underage drinking was still under way.
Both Deeds and Cloud said they want separate charges to be filed on behalf of every underage person who consumed alcohol at the party. Class A misdemeanors carry a potential for a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
In a tragic turn to what has already broken the heart of a community, Deeds said that an investigation by the Department of Pubic Safety indicated that Urbanovsky likely would have survived the crash – and, in fact, both boys might have walked away with moderate injuries – had they been wearing seat belts.
Deeds said it is believed that Click was driving between 72 and 76 miles per hour when his 2009 Hyundai slammed into a pine tree in a front yard.
“The newer vehicles are designed to withstand pretty good crashes and protect the passengers,” the sheriff said. “The passenger compartment of the vehicle was definitely well intact, and the air bags deployed on both sides.”
Deeds said that data was gleaned on Wednesday from the Hyundai’s computer, which is the equivalent, he said, of an airplane’s “black box.”
Christian said the computers provide information on changes in velocity, level of speed, braking and other important facts.
“It’s very unfortunate, the way this is unfolding, because there was so much (that was) preventable in this whole thing,” the sheriff said.
where do we go from here?
Tony Tull, a parent who knew Urbanovsky and knows his family, is planning a community-wide meeting Tuesday at the Granbury Resort Conference Center. It will start at 7 p.m. Tull said he wants to start a safe ride program called URBO – United Rides By Others. Urbo, he said, was Urbanovsky’s nickname.
He said that Lori Cullison, meanwhile, is working to revive the defunct chapter of S.A.D.D. – Students Against Drunk Driving – for Granbury High School. Cullison spearheaded Project Graduation for the Class of 2012.
Though Tull used safe ride programs offered by many universities as an example and said he has thoroughly researched the issue, the idea has raised concerns for those in law enforcement, as well as the Hood County Substance Abuse Council. There would be a number of liability hurdles to circumvent, several said, and a host of other issues, including whether providing rides would be encouraging or enabling illegal consumption of alcohol.
“We just can’t condone that,” said Cloud, with TABC.
Rodney Casey, coordinator of the Hood County Substance Abuse Council, said he thinks it’s “fantastic” that Tull and others are looking at ways to address the problem, but said that providing rides would send the message to young people that “it’s okay to drink all they want because someone will take responsibility for their poor choices.”
Dave Moore, who heads the council, said that attitudes about alcohol must be changed.
“It just doesn’t work,” he said of expecting teens to use the good judgment to call for a ride.
“I think we can make a severe dent on these parties if we can get parents educated and get them on our side. There are so many stupid reasons why they think it’s a good idea to facilitate these parties. We’ve got to have some parents arrested and hauled off in handcuffs.”
Tull said the purpose of the Tuesday meeting is for the community to brainstorm the best ways to prevent another tragic loss. Though Granbury Police Chief Mitch Galvan also has worries about a ride program, he said he shares Tull’s desire to make a difference in what sometimes seems to be a hopeless problem.
“We put out a huge effort right before prom to say, ‘Look, guys, this is serious stuff. Tragic things happen when you do this,’” he said, referring to the Shattered Dreams program conducted at GHS and a Town Hall meeting put on by the Substance Abuse Council. “It’s so hard to try and make a stand.”
Galvan said that Urbanovsky was “a brilliant kid” who would “light a room up.” While he said he understands the emotion-driven good intentions in the wake of the young man’s death, he fears that people will soon forget the lesson.
“All the ones that preceded (Urbanovsky) had just as many friends,” he said. “And it (underage drinking) didn’t stop there.”
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