Investigation of fatal I-85 crash turns to bars, fake ID
Posted July 24, 2015
Updated July 26, 2015
Hillsborough, N.C. — Investigators say more people could be charged in a crash last weekend on Interstate 85 that killed three people.
Chandler Michael Kania, 20, of Asheboro, remains in the Orange County jail after being charged Thursday with three counts of second-degree murder in the fiery Sunday morning wreck. Kania also has been charged with three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.
State Highway Patrol troopers say Kania, a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris.
Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured but was released Thursday from UNC Hospitals.
Prosecutors say Kania has told investigators that he had been in Chapel Hill in the hours before the crash, and witnesses said he had been drinking in at least two bars there.
Josh Batten, an Alcohol Law Enforcement officer, said one of the agency's most pressing issues is fake IDs in towns heavily populated by college students.
“The counterfeit IDs are now being sold online, making it more difficult to track down the source,” Batten said. “To make matters worse, many people don't know the telltale signs of a fake ID.”
The state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement is trying to determine who served the underage college student alcohol and how much. ALE agents plan to interview employees and witnesses at those bars and review available security video.
“It’s not good enough just to have a door man checking an ID, then when you go in nobody cares anymore,” Batten said. “The bartender, the server, whoever provides the alcohol where it goes from their hands to the other person, they’re the ones responsible for verifying the age of a person.”
ALE agents are also looking into where Kania got the fake identification that he gave to state troopers after the crash. Assistant Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman said in court Thursday that the ID was the driver's license of someone who was 21 and that Kania didn't have his own license with him.
Authorities said criminal charges could be brought against the person who gave Kania the ID or bartenders who served him.
An eyewitness saw Kania was on the wrong side of I-85 for at least 6 miles before the head-on collision. Nieman said troopers found a box of beer at the crash site and said Kania had "a strong odor of alcohol" and bloodshot eyes.
Kania is scheduled to be back in court next Monday, when his attorneys are expected to ask that his $1 million bond be reduced.