State police investigators have asked to expedite the testing of a blood sample from a man who allegedly crashed his car into a group of high school seniors on the Northway over the weekend, killing two of them and badly injuring the others.
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy III said the testing, which ordinarily takes up to 90 days, will be necessary to determine the charges 22-year-old Dennis Drue of Clifton Park will face. He said a blood sample taken from Drue at Ellis Hospital should show whether he was above the legal threshold for driving while intoxicated and if he should be charged with counts of vehicular manslaughter.
"[The state police] lab is one of the finest in the country, but they need time to do their analysis," Murphy said in a joint statement released today. "We cannot charge based on emotion, we must charge based on facts and evidence. We must wait for the lab to give us the evidence we need. Then we can go forward with our case.”
The crash that killed Shenenedahowa seniors Chris Stewart, 17, and Deanna Rivers, 17, Saturday evening has cause widespread grief throughout the Capital Region. Also injured in the crash were Bailey Wind and Matthew Hardy, both 17.
State police investigators have said Drue was speeding on Interstate 87 when he veered into the vehicle driven by Stewart. The collision caused Stewart's vehicle to roll over three times, killing him and Rivers.
Investigators said Drue failed field sobriety tests but have not filed charges against him in the case. He suffered only minor injuries in the accident and was released from Ellis Hospital on Sunday.
If Drue's blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or greater, he could face counts of vehicular manslaughter, Murphy said. But the prosecutor declined to indicate whether he anticipates this charge being filed.
Part of the ongoing investigation includes the use of accident reconstruction experts to determine, among other things, an estimate of the vehicles’ speed. State police speed estimates are based on eyewitness accounts and an expert’s analysis is needed for charging purposes.
"In short order we will know more," Capt. Steven James said in a statement. "In the meantime, we must do our job, which is to find out specifically what Mr. Drue did and under what circumstances. We will do our job as we always do, professionally and correctly.”
State police are also urging mourners to utilize a memorial site created at Shenendehowa High School. They are urging people to avoid the crash site on the Northway for safety reasons.