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Erik Burgess, Published October 08 2012

Teen driver charged in crash that killed Moorhead classmate

SABIN, Minn. – The driver in a rollover crash here that killed a Moorhead High School student in August has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide in Clay County District Court, an accident authorities believe was caused by high speed and inattention.

Kullen Jerome Carney, 16, who was identified by law enforcement as the driver in the Aug. 9 rollover that killed 17-year-old Austin Wagar and injured 16-year-old Brendan Daly, is charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, reckless driving and speeding, according to court documents filed Friday.

Court documents allege Carney was driving 88 mph along 80th Avenue here in a 55-mph zone when another vehicle pulled out in front of him. He overcorrected, lost control of the vehicle on the gravel roadway and hit a ditch embankment, according to the report filed with the charges.

The car then flipped upside down and started on fire.

Investigating officers believe high speed was a factor in the crash and driver inattention may have been a contributing factor, court documents state.

After the crash, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office determined alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the accident.

But Carney tested positive in a urine drug screening for benzodiazepine, often used for treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal and muscle spasms, and THC, a principal component found in marijuana.

Wagar died Aug. 10 at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo as a result of his injuries sustained in the crash. According to court documents, Wagar suffered a serious head injury and was knocked unconscious in the accident. He never regained consciousness and was taken off life support that Friday afternoon.

Carney suffered acute respiratory failure, a head injury, pulmonary contusion and a pelvic fracture. Carney was treated and discharged from Essentia Health on Aug. 12.

Daly suffered a heel contusion, back pain and a head injury and was released the same day, also from Essentia Health.

The sheriff’s department said all three were wearing their seatbelts.

Carney was charged under the Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile law, which hands down two sentences – one juvenile and one adult.

The juvenile sanction is enforced and the individual remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system until he or she turns 21 years old. An adult sentence is also issued, and may be imposed if the orders of the juvenile court are violated.

Wagar’s mother, Jamie Olson, said she was advised by prosecutors not to speak about the charges. She did say she was thankful for all the support her family has received after losing her son.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” she said. “He’s extremely missed right now. It’s affected thousands of people. We didn’t even realize how many friends he really had.”

When reached by The Forum on Monday night, Carney’s mother declined to comment. A phone number listed for Carney’s father went to a voicemail that was full.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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