UNC student charged in fatal I-85 wrong-way collision
Posted July 20, 2015
Hillsborough, N.C. — A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student has been charged in a Sunday morning crash on Interstate 85 in Orange County that killed three people.
Chandler Michael Kania, 20, of 847 Anns Court in Asheboro, was charged with driving while impaired, 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, and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said more charges are pending.
Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte, according to the Highway Patrol.
"A car was traveling on the other side of the road, and they smashed into each other, and they blew up the car," said a woman who called 911 to report the crash.
The Highway Patrol hasn't yet determined where Kania got onto I-85 and how long he had been driving in the wrong direction before the crash. A man who called 911 minutes before the crash said he saw the Jeep in the northbound lanes at the Buckhorn Road interchange, which is about 6 miles from the crash site.
"He's not driving slow," the man said in his 911 call.
Harris and two of her three passengers, Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck.
Jahnia King, 9, who was in the back of Harris' vehicle, was listed in critical condition Monday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
"This is a horrific situation," Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said. "A 6-year-old killed, two adults, the other injured person is 9 years old, very seriously injured. This is terrible. It's hard to imagine how it gets much worse."
Woodall met with Highway Patrol investigators Monday and said the patrol has the discretion to file a range of charges against Kania, who remains hospitalized at UNC Hospitals after he suffered two broken ankles in the crash. Authorities said he is cooperating with the crash investigation.
A rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, Kania is a board member with Tar Heel Beginnings, a mentoring organization on campus, and is a popular member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Fraternity brothers said they were reeling from news of the crash and said it brought home the dangers of drinking and driving.
The state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement is investigating where and how Kania obtained alcohol.