A carefree, early summer day ended horribly
Police reports of a fatal accident on June 11, show that Kelly McCarron, then 17 and ready to graduate three days later from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, and Jena Pothier, who had just completed her freshman year of college, spent a carefree early summer day with friends. In the evening, Ms. McCarron was the driver when the crash occurred. She was badly hurt and Ms. Pothier died.
Tuesday, in Edgartown District Court, Kelly McCarron, 18, was arraigned on three motor vehicle homicide charges, in connection with a June 11 accident that left her friend and passenger, Jena Pothier, 18, dead.
The most serious charge, motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol or negligent operation, carries a minimum sentence of 2.5 years of incarceration. She also faces four civil motor vehicle charges including a marked lanes violation, speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt, and tire tread depth violation.
Ms. McCarron sat quietly through the morning court session, sometimes speaking with the family members who surrounded her. When her name was called for arraignment, she approached the bar and listened intently as the court clerk read the charges, showing no outward emotion. She did not speak. The court entered not guilty pleas on her behalf.
Ms. McCarron was released on personal recognizance, on condition that she not use alcohol and that she submit to random alcohol testing. She is due back in court for a hearing on October 16.
On that Thursday, they hung out together, had a cookout, visited friends, ran errands, and went for Chinese takeout, according to police reports.
But those reports also indicate that during the afternoon, the group of girls drove to Oak Bluffs where a young man provided them with a half-gallon container of alcohol.
Summer day turns tragic
According to police, a group of five teenage girls, among them Ms. McCarron and Ms. Pothier, met about 11 am on June 11, and began cruising around Oak Bluffs in an SUV.
Sometime between noon and 2 pm, the girls parked at a package store in Oak Bluffs. According to witness interviews, Ms. Pothier left the vehicle to talk with a man who worked at a nearby moped rental shop. When they returned, the man "gave Jena a half gallon or 'handle' of alcohol with a red label," according to the police report. "Jena then filled a Poland Spring water bottle with the alcohol."
The group headed to the home of one of the girls, on Old County Road in West Tisbury, arriving there about 2 pm. Later, they traveled to The Bite in Menemsha, a takeout restaurant where one of the young women picked up her paycheck. The witness told police that Jena and Kelly were in the back seat of the SUV, drinking out of the water bottle on the way to Menemsha. They arrived about 3:30 pm. After picking up the check, the group returned to the home on Old County Road for a cookout, spending part of the day hanging out in a tent behind the house.
About 6 pm, Ms. Pothier and another girl left the house, traveled to Oak Bluffs to see a friend, and then returned to the Old County Road home. At that point, two of the girls left for home. At about 8:15 pm, Ms. Pothier and another friend left for Vineyard Haven, where they bought Chinese food.
Another witness told police that Ms. Pothier was at a home on Daggett Road, Oak Bluffs at about 8:30. The witness and Ms. Pothier left with another person who was waiting outside in a car. They went to Cumberland Farms in Vineyard Haven, then returned to the Daggett Avenue home about 9:10 pm. Ms. Pothier and her friend came back in the house, and about 10 minutes later, Ms. Pothier left the house and joined Ms. McCarron in the car.
Two people were eyewitnesses to the accident that occurred as the two girls traveled west on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, just west of the entrance to Martha's Vineyard Airport that night, according to the police reports.
A Vineyard Transit Authority driver, on his way home from work in his own car, told police he was traveling in the westbound lane at about 45 miles per hour when "a car came up on his rear bumper, very close so he could not see the headlights," according to the report. The witness said he accelerated slightly to get some distance between the two vehicles. In a sequence the witness described as "road rage," the vehicle operated by Ms. McCarron accelerated at high rate of speed and passed him. The witness estimated Ms. McCarron's car was traveling at about 70 miles per hour.
Ms. McCarron lost control as she was trying to return to the westbound lane, to avoid an oncoming car traveling east. The driver of the eastbound vehicle told police he took evasive action to avoid being hit by Ms. McCarron's car. According to the report, he told police "the vehicle cut back into the other lane and lost control. The car then went into the woods and exploded." The second witness estimated Ms. McCarron's speed at 70-75 miles per hour.
According to the police investigation, the vehicle scraped one tree, snapped off another tree, spun and hit a third tree. After hitting the third tree, the vehicle traveled another 66 feet and came to rest on the shoulder of the road. The investigation showed that three of the vehicle's tires had less than the required 2/32-inch of tread.
Ms. Pothier died in the accident. Ms. McCarron was thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured.
EMTs told investigators that both girls smelled of alcohol, according to the police report.
State police were asked to assist West Tisbury police in investigating how the two women got the alcohol. State police Sgt. Neal Maciel told The Martha's Vineyard Times yesterday that an investigation is ongoing and very active, but has been affected by several factors. Among them are Ms. McCarron's long recovery time from her injuries, a State Police force stretched thin by President Obama's visit to Martha's Vineyard in August, and a strong reluctance among young people who may have information to cooperate with police.
"On the Island, people this age, there's a code of silence," Sgt. Maciel said. "Even in this type of tragedy, the silence is very strong."
Sgt. Maciel said he is confident, however, that more information can be developed with further investigation. "We haven't forgotten about this," Sgt. Maciel said.
According to West Tisbury police Chief Beth Toomey, the toxicology report is not yet complete. "They usually take a very long time," Chief Toomey said. The State Police accident reconstruction team has completed its investigation. She declined comment on the report. Chief Toomey said the report has been forwarded to the Cape and Islands District Attorney.