Zachary Dupon pleaded not guilty to motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation, speeding, and marked lanes violation on Monday morning before Edgartown District Court Judge Paul Pino in a Zoom session from the Dukes County Jail.
Dupon, 25, of Oak Bluffs was taken into custody by Massachusetts State troopers over the weekend following a head-on collision in Tisbury Saturday that killed Emma Hall. The collision occurred Saturday night on Beach Road. Pino set Dupon’s bail at $12,000 cash, but the sum was moot because he found Dupon in violation of bail conditions on another matter, revoked that bail, and ordered him held for 90 days.
Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Matt Palazzolo told the court Dupon was allegedly traveling at 60 to 70 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone when his SUV struck Emma Hall’s Volkswagen head-on. Dupon’s vehicle was also in the wrong lane of the roadway.
“Ms. Hall was pronounced dead at the scene,” Palazzolo said.
Passengers Molly and Monica Carroll were injured and transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, with Monica Carroll subsequently being airlifted to a Boston hospital, he said. It was the first time the names of the other two passengers were released publicly. On Monday, Monica was in good condition, according to a Mass General spokesperson.
The occupants of two other vehicles witnessed the collision and were interviewed by troopers, Palazzolo said.
Police later spoke with Dupon at the hospital, Palazzolo said, where he allegedly told them “he may have been looking at his cellphone” because someone called him as he crossed the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge.
Palazzolo requested $25,000 cash bail for the present charges, and a bail revocation on a previous bail condition for alleged possession of a controlled substance, for which Dupon was arraigned on Oct. 9.
“There is absolutely no question that this is a horrible tragedy,” Dupon’s attorney, Casey Dobel, told the court. “This accident has impacted many people, and I do not want in any way to minimize the severity of what has happened.”
Dobel said Monday’s court appearance wasn’t about establishing guilt or innocence, but resolving bail issues.
She said his October case, which she also represents him for, amounts to possession of Xanax, a pharmaceutical he’s previously had a prescription to use. As to the collision, Dobel stressed there was no indication he was under the influence of any substances.
“He has been working on getting his life together,” she said, and noted he has a job at Island Grown Initiative. “I’ve been working with him for a couple months. He’s a kid with a good heart,” Dobel said. “It is absolutely horrible what happened. He cannot afford any more than a $2,000 bail at the absolute maximum.”
Dobel added that Dupon has physical and mental health issues, and jail would be detrimental to his well-being. She noted his family was present on-Island, and they were willing to support him and help him comply with any directives of the court.
“Certainly, no one is arguing that he should have his license to operate a motor vehicle not revoked,” Dobel said. “We all agree on that.” She asked that he be allowed to go free and work under restrictions. “He has the presumption of innocence, and he has the presumption of an affordable bail,” she said.
She asked for $2,000 bail, and no revocation on the previous matter.
Pino upheld the revocation request made by Palazzolo. He set bail for the collision charges at $12,000. Dupon was ordered not to operate a motor vehicle during the pendency of the case.
Dupon is slated to be back in court Jan. 14.
Witness recalls a stark event
Professional mechanic Thomas Duggan of New Hampshire was returning from the Ocean View with family members from the Vineyard Saturday night just prior to the collision. He spoke with The Times Tuesday. The family traveled in two vehicles, he said, and he was in the lead vehicle. His cousin drove the tail-end vehicle. Duggan said Dupon’s SUV came up behind his cousin’s vehicle and almost struck it from behind. The driver “yelled some obscenities out the window at her, and then proceeded to cross the double yellow line … He was flying.”
Both Duggan and his cousin pulled over by the seawall on Beach Road.
While another witness believed Dupon was doing 60 to 65 mph, Duggan estimated his speed at “80 miles an hour” or more. “But that’s just me,” he said. “I ride motorcycles. I snowmobile. I know how fast that gentleman was going, and it wasn’t 60 miles an hour. He was flying and accelerating the whole time, and to the point of impact … He did not hit the brakes. I could see the whole accident. He didn’t hit the brakes once. He didn’t try and cut back over.”
According to a police report, Dupon told State Police that he was going to pick up a friend, knew he had bad brakes, and “didn’t want to drive” because his SUV was “not safe.”
Duggan told The Times he saw no reason Dupon should have remained in the oncoming traffic lane, and should have cut the wheel over. “I mean, he might have lost control at that point, from, you know, jacking the wheel at that speed to get back into his lane, but he didn’t even try to do that,” he said. “He did not even try.”
Duggan said the Volkswagen pulled to the curb as Dupon approached.
“The car was kind of angled toward the curbing on her right side,” he said. “So that’s why she got the brunt of it. He hit mainly her side of the car.”
According to Duggan, Dupon’s SUV then flipped, appeared to ignite, and “slid about 200 yards.” Tisbury fire officials told The Times there wasn’t evidence of a fire, but fluid may have caused smoke.
Duggan said he rushed over and helped the Carroll sisters from the Volkswagen wreck. Both, he said, wore seatbelts. He then tried to usher them away from their deceased friend.
“They were able to walk somewhat,” he said
Duggan then said he proceeded to the SUV. Another good Samaritan was already there.
“I opened the door, and he grabbed the kid and pulled him out,” he said. Duggan said he was in the backseat. He checked for other passengers as the other man pulled Dupon out of the wreck.
First responders then descended on the scene.
“In two or three minutes probably the EMTs were there, and kind of shuttled us away and started doing their thing,” he said.
There was little they could do for Hall, Duggan said.
Duggan said he expects his family members will “see some things in the back of their minds for a while” based on the shock of the experience.
“We were fortunate enough to all go home that night, and the girl that was driving that car, she’s not going home.”