Local News

UNC tennis player charged with DWI to return home

Posted August 18, 2008 10:27 a.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2008 12:19 p.m. EDT

— A University of North Carolina star tennis player charged with drunken driving in a wreck that hospitalized two fellow students will  withdraw from school this semester, his attorney said Monday.

Chris Kearney, 20, veered off the road in the 200 block of North Columbia Street early Sunday, and his sport utility vehicle hit a wall before striking two female UNC students walking on the sidewalk, police said.

Carolyn Anne Kubitschek, 21, of Asheville, and Casey Marie LeSawyer, 21, of Weaverville, were taken to UNC Hospitals with serious injuries, officials said. Each was listed in fair condition on Tuesday.

Kearney was charged with two counts of inflicting personal injury, felony hit-and-run causing personal injury and possessing a fake ID and one count each of driving while impaired and consuming alcohol under the age of 21.

His blood-alcohol reading registered 0.18, more than twice the 0.08 per se limit for intoxication in North Carolina.

Zach Strom was walking along Columbia Street when Kubitschek and LeSawyer were hit.

"The car came behind me and (was) screeching across both lanes, smashed into a wall," Strom said. "Three girls (were) walking 20 yards away, coming toward us, and (the vehicle) hits two of them and they went flying – literally flying in the air."

Three Marines who witnessed the accident then restrained the driver, who had stumbled out of the car, until police arrived, Strom said.

Kearney's parents flew in from Irvine, Calif., to attend his first court appearance Monday morning and bail him out of jail. He has withdrawn from school and will return home to California with them, said his attorney, Amos Tyndall.

Classes start Tuesday at UNC.

"They're devastated. They're very sad, and they're very concerned about the two girls who were hurt. Their thoughts and prayers are with those girls, and they're wishing – obviously wishing – he had made better choices," Tyndall said.

Kearney declined to comment as he left the Orange County Courthouse, except to mutter "I'm sorry" several times.

His next court date is set for Aug. 28.

Kearney was the Atlantic Coast Conference 2007 Freshman Player of the Year. He ranks second on the team for singles and doubles victories and was ranked third nationally among doubles players last fall.

Any UNC student charged with a felony is automatically suspended from athletics, and anyone convicted of a felony is permanently banned, university officials said.

Tennis coach Sam Paul said he hopes Kubitschek and LeSawyer recover quickly.

"Chris has been a member of our tennis program for the last two years and is a good person who has made a serious mistake," Paul said in a statement. "I talk to my players all the time about making good decisions. As coaches, we are always worried about the dangers associated with drinking and driving and with alcohol in general."

Pam Postage, who witnessed the wreck with Strom, said Kubitschek and LeSawyer seem to be recovering.

"Casey's fine. I talked to her last night for about an hour. She's joking (and) she's talking. She remembered us, so that's really amazing," Postage said.