CHP seeks charge in fatality

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By MIKE MORRIS

The California Highway Patrol is asking that an Angels Camp teen be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in connection with an Aug. 5 crash that killed his best friend.

CHP officials also recommend a felony charge of drunken driving causing death be filed against Zachary Airola, 17.

The night-time crash on Highway 4 near Vallecito killed Airola's passenger, George Langston, 19, of Angels Camp.

Since Airola is under the legal drinking age of 21, CHP Officer Jan Moon said there is a zero tolerance policy regarding his blood-alcohol level of .18 at the time of the crash. For drivers over age 21, the legal limit is .08.

"It's not legal to drink so there's no limit," she said. "It's illegal in the first place."

Meanwhile, the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department conducted a separate investigation regarding adults who served alcohol at a Murphys birthday party that Airola and Langston attended shortly before the wreck. The District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the investigation's findings and will decide whether any adults will be charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors.

The CHP case against Airola has been referred to the Calaveras County Probation Department. Although he will turn 18 later this month, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Rich Manders said Airola would be charged as a juvenile.

Manders said the department has received CHP's complaint and Deputy District Attorney Michael McConnell is conducting an investigation, which could be completed tomorrow.

Manders said he believes, the Probation Department will confirm the charges CHP has requested.

"We will be filing a petition. We're not sure of the charges," he said. "I know this is going to happen, but I don't know exactly when."

Should the Probation Department also conclude that Airola face charges relating to Langston's death, it must give him10-day notice before his trial.

Manders said a trial in early September is likely. Because the trial would be held in juvenile court, it would be closed to the public.

11508935
The Union Democrat
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