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UNC student charged in fatal I-85 wrong-way collision

Posted July 20, 2015

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— 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.

38 Comments

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  • Tony Biancardi Jul 24, 2015
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    I am by no means making excuses for this young man's actions and the horrible consequences, but for those of you who feel you must make some sort of snap judgment about the driver's background or his upbringing, here is a quote from a newspaper article about the incident:
    A 2013 graduate of Asheboro High School, he was a volunteer for Red Box Women’s Prison Ministries and Habitat for Humanity International from January 2010 until May 2013, and served as a tutor/mentor at Mills Home orphanage from August 2010-May 2012. - See more at: http://courier-tribune.com/news/local/asheboro-family-sends-prayers-and-thoughts-wreck-victims#sthash.JQZxanzO.dpuf

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    I think her comment was for in general DWI cases. But yes you are right, he was not of drinking age. But there are plenty of teenagers I know that drink underage and I think some drove afterwards and have been caught. I am not condoning his actions, but he made the stupid mistake of drinking and driving. Kids think they are invincible and they are not.
    Him drinking underage probably wouldn't constitute wanton disregard unless he knew he was going to go driving afterwards, but drinking and driving would constitute wanton disregard. But this case just depends on the attorneys involved and the laws he broke/charges against him.

  • Teresa Engel Jul 21, 2015
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    There is one tiny fact that is being overlooked. He is not of legal drinking age. So, because he is not old enough to drink, wouldn't that constitute wanton disregard for the risk he posed? And getting drunk and driving should be two instances of wanton disregard. He knew before he even picked up his first drink that he was breaking the law. I am just asking the question here.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    It is a good idea, but you know how long it takes to get a dentistry degree (it is pretty much like getting a degree to be a doctor...10+ years). It won't matter anyway because he is probably going to get a slap on the wrist even though he killed 3 people.

  • Chad Weaver Jul 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Mike Hill I like the way you think. I say let him get his degree, spend nights and weekends in jail and after he graduates then he can go pull teeth in prison for the next 30 or so years, and if he drops out or fails he gets life. Just my twist on the whole thing.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    I have always wondered that too, even the ones who aren't drunk and manage to get on the wrong side of the interstate.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    I don't know, but what I have seen drunk drivers, even those who kill people, tend to get a slap on the wrist. Since he is 20 they will just say it was an honest mistake, weren't you 20 once and made mistakes...blah blah blah

  • Russ Bullock Jul 21, 2015
    user avatar

    I've never been able to understand how someone could get so drunk as to drive down the wrong side of an interstate. We are not talking a few points over 0.08 here. This guy must have been "faced". I wonder if anyone saw him get into the drivers seat of a car like that.

  • Sam Nada Jul 21, 2015
    user avatar

    Let's hope the "more charges are pending" includes some form of homicide, and very serious consequences. It would be a travesty if he gets minimal jail time, probation and community service. We'll be watching to see how justice is served.

  • Mike Hill Jul 21, 2015
    user avatar

    The only question here is how much jail time. I propose after jail he finish his college degree and 50% of his gross goes to the victims families. His being in jail for an extended time is not going to be productive other than making people "feel" good about his punishment. But, if we as a society would allow him to finish his education, then garnish the majority of his wages, that could actually help the victim's families. This would also save on prison cost. The DA should meet with the families of the victims and see what their thoughts are on this matter and proposed solution. BTW, at 20 isn't he too young to be in Dental school? He may be in pre-dental.

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