MOREAU — The driver in the Aug. 31 crash that killed a South Glens Falls High School student admitted to police he drank beer and smoked marijuana prior to the crash, according to the statement he allegedly gave police.
Christopher R. Miranda, however, said he consumed relatively small amounts of each and instead said he believed his speed — and his reaction to a darting deer — caused the wreck that killed his 16-year-old friend Zachery Brown.
"I did smoke some weed and drink some alcohol," Miranda, 18, allegedly told police in a statement given hours hours after the crash and filed in court this week, "but I don't think that I am that messed up."
State police now say they believe Miranda was drunk behind the wheel when he lost control of the car that morning along Bluebird Road in the town of Moreau.
They announced Tuesday they formally charged the Hudson Falls resident with vehicular manslaughter in Brown's death and vehicular assault for injuries suffered by a second passenger, a 14-year-old from Fort Edward who survived. Miranda also faces felony and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated counts and multiple traffic citations.
Blood tests showed Miranda's blood alcohol level to be .12 percent that morning, state police said, above the legal limit of .08.
Miranda has been arraigned and ordered held on $20,000 bail.
Miranda is accused of driving impaired in Moreau just before 5:30 a.m. when he lost control, veered off the shoulder and struck trees in the front yard of a residence.
Police cited both alcohol and excessive speed as factors in the crash. A release did not cite marijuana. Miranda suffered minor injuries in the crash.
Brown was a student in the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES program, "and will be remembered as a polite, very likable young man who had a wonderful sense of humor," South Glens Falls School District Superintendent Michael Patton has said.
A memorial cross with Brown's name is now in the front yard where the crash took place. Mangled, cut trees remain nearby.
In his alleged statement to police, Miranda retraces his actions the previous evening and morning of the crash. He also admitted he only had a learner's permit and never had a full license.
Miranda contended he smoked "three or four hits" of marijuana about five hours before the crash. He said he twice drank partial cans of beer at the Fenimore Bridge over the Hudson River, about a quarter can each time.
They then left to take Brown home about 4:45 a.m. or 5.
"As we were driving down Bluebird Road I remember that a deer jumped out in front of my car from the right side of the roadway," Miranda allegedly told police. "I tried to swerve and avoid the deer and then lost control of the car."
Miranda believed he was driving 55 in the 45 mph zone.
"After I lost control of the car there was nothing I could do. I remember going off the roadway and then hitting some trees," Miranda allegedly told police.
Miranda allegedly repeated the deer account to witnesses and police at the scene and afterward, according to statements filed. He also allegedly told troopers at Glens Falls Hospital, when asked if he had anything to drink or drugs, that he had "just a few sips and a few puffs of marijuana" before they left Hudson Falls.
The case will be prosecuted by the Saratoga County District Attorney's Office.
The crash marked the second student death at the South Glens Falls school in weeks. Ryan Vieira, 16, a rising sophomore, died Aug. 15 following a collision between his bicycle and a motorcyclist on Route 32 in Moreau. The motorcyclist, James Mercurio, 63, of Hudson Falls, was also killed.