BATH - Dustin W. Drake, the driver in the one-car accident that took the lives of four passengers on County Route 76, near Rugby Road, Oct. 12, was charged Sunday with felony driving while intoxicated and aggravated vehicular homicide.
Drake, 30, of Prattburgh, was charged with felony driving while intoxicated, due to a previous conviction of DWI within the past 10 years, and two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, according to Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard.
The two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide were due to the incident occurring within 10 years of his past DWI conviction and that multiple fatalities were involved in the incident.
Allard, Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker and Steuben Sheriff Investigator Donald Lewis announced the charges Monday morning during a press conference at the Steuben County Jail.
Drake was arraigned Sunday at the Steuben County Centralized Arraignment Court and released on his own recognizance, Baker said. He will reappear in Pulteney Town Court Nov. 20.
“Drake turned himself in, with council, and was arraigned and released as he poses no flight risk,” Allard said.
Baker said the case will be presented to the Steuben County Grand Jury in the relatively near future. The current charges have a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison.
“Within the next couple of months,” Baker said.
Baker said the exact alcohol level of Drake and the speed the car was traveling on County Route 76, at the time the car veered off a sharp turn in the road and hit a nearby tree is not currently known.
“We are awaiting for some of those results to come from the New York State Police laboratory,” Baker said.
Drake is being defended in the case by Ithaca area attorney Ray Schlather.
“Frequently when we take a DWI arrest to trial we hear from the defense that it is a victimless crime,” Allard said. “We know that it is not. We know that in some DWI cases holes are left in families, friends lose friends, and we experience some of the most significant loses of the community that we will ever experience.”
Allard said during the course of this investigation, police were able to talk to people that were friends to the vicitms lost in the crash.
“We found out that one woman was on her way to med school before this horrific crash,” Allard said. “Interviewing a young man that was hanging out with them that evening, he said to me I hugged my best friend since childhood goodbye, when we left the bar that night I didn’t know I would never see her again.”
Allard said when someone dies in a crash is affects the family, the family's friends, it leaves a hole that never is the same again.
“That is what we experienced a little over a week ago,” Allard said. “All of the folks that were victims of this crash lived locally, worked locally, and were known to the first responders.”
The victims of the fatal motor vehicle crash, which occurred at about 1:15 a.m. Nov. 12, were Korbie L. Higgins, 28, of Bath, Coy F. Miner, 26, of Hammondsport, Nicole L. Wise, 25, of Prattsburgh and Adam P. Bellamy, 29, of Pulteney and Ohio.
Allard said Drake was the operator and the only person who survived the one-car crash.
“He was charged after significant physical evidence was processed,” Allard said.
"I would like to thank the Pulteney Volunteer Fire Company for all of their help at the scene and I would like to thank the New York State Police for their assistance.”
Baker said over the past 25 years he has prosecuted nearly all fatal DWI cases.
“This was one of the most horrific sites I have seen or dealt with in this county,” Baker said. “Four young promising lives were lost from a very tight knit community. The echoes from their loss will go on for decades. Our heart goes out to the families.”
Baker said there is nothing the Steuben County District Attorney Department can do but prosecute the defendant.
“I don’t know if anything we ever could do would make the victims feel better,” Baker said. “I don’t pretend to put myself in their shoes.
"What I can tell them is we will do our best to get justice for their loved ones and to find out for them exactly what happened as best as we can and make sure that under the law the appropriate sanctions are proposed against the defendant. That’s all the system can do unfortunately. That’s one of the tragic and sad things about cases like this. There is no way to make anybody whole again.”
Several family members of the victims attended the press conference Monday morning. None of the family members spoke about the incident.