Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
For more information about Jo, check out her Linked-in profile, as well as her Facebook fan page, Instagram and Google+
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Cops: Lower Makefield man was DUI when he killed former co-worker
Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015
A 22-year-old Lower Makefield man was seen drinking at a Yardley bar for nearly two hours before driving the wrong way on a Falls highway, slamming into a car driven by a former co-worker and killing her, police said.
Kaitlin Abel, 23, also of Lower Makefield, was dead fewer than 20 minutes after Michael Ahearn reportedly left the Continental Tavern shortly before midnight Oct. 30. His blood alcohol concentration was .230 percent, nearly three times the .08 limit for driving in Pennsylvania, police said.
Ahearn and Abel knew each other as co-workers at Sesame Place, a family member said.
Ahearn admitted to police that he had been drinking alcoholic beverages before the accident and that he knew he was driving on the wrong side of the road, according to court documents.
On Thursday, four months after the fatal accident, Ahearn was charged in connection with Abel’s death. He was arraigned before District Judge Jan Vislosky on charges of homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, DUI, six counts of reckless endangering and related offenses. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $250,000 bail.
The prosecution requested a high cash bail for Ahearn, citing the seriousness of the charges and that Ahearn had been involved in a DUI-related accident in September. He pleaded guilty to DUI and drug paraphernalia possession in Bucks County Court earlier this month in that case, court records show.
Witnesses told police that Ahearn was traveling south in the northbound lanes of Route 13 without headlights or taillights on before the accident, and at least one car had to swerve to avoid hitting him, according to a probable cause affidavit. His car then crashed into Abel’s, which was headed northbound at Tyburn Road, police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
A third vehicle going north on Route 13 then struck Ahearn’s Ford Fusion, police said. The driver, Sarah D’Agostino, told police she didn’t see the car because it had no lights on. D’Agostino was treated for injuries at a hospital and released.
Ahearn was trapped inside his car for about 45 minutes. He was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown and treated for injuries.
Ahearn’s attorney, William Brenner, declined comment after Thursday’s arraignment.
Abel family members attended the arraignment. One woman caressed a prayer card from Abel’s funeral throughout the 10-minute proceeding.
Investigators said they have video surveillance showing Ahearn drinking at the Continental Tavern from around 2:30 p.m. until 4:15 p.m., and then again, after working at the Yardley Inn, from 9:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The probable cause affidavit also notes that while working at the Yardley Inn between 4:40 p.m. and 9:30, Ahearn had “full access to any and all alcohol located there.”