ELLSWORTH, Maine (AP) — A woman who survived a fiery crash that claimed the lives of four Maine Maritime Academy students has been charged as an “accomplice or co-conspirator” in connection with the tragedy.
Noelle Tavares, 20, of North Falmouth, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty this week to charges of manslaughter, aggravated operating under the influence, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, driving to endanger and reckless speed.
Hancock County District Attorney Robert Granger said Friday the grand jury found probable cause of “accomplice liability” attached to the charges, meaning she’s accused of facilitating the conduct that led to the tragedy even though she wasn’t the driver. Granger declined in an email to comment on Tavares’ actions that provided the basis for the charges.
Tavares’ lawyer didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The driver, Joshua Goncalves-Radding, of North Babylon, New York, was traveling at between 106 mph and 111 mph (170 kph and 179 kph) before the SUV struck a tree and caught fire last December, law enforcement officials said. Goncalves-Radding already pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated drunken driving and other charges in May.
The Land Rover the students were riding in was owned by the father of the third survivor, Dominick Gecoya, of Middleton, Massachusetts, Granger said. Gecoya was charged under the accomplice liability provision in June, Granger said.
Killed were Brian Kenealy, 20, of York, Maine; Chase Fossett, 21, of Gardiner, Maine; Luke Simpson, 22, of Rockport, Massachusetts; and Riley Ignacio-Cameron, 20, of Aquinnah, Massachusetts, officials said.
Accomplice liability charges are rare but not unprecedented in Maine.
In the early 1990s, a motorist who was too drunk to drive was convicted under those provisions after giving his keys to a drunk passenger who ended up being charged with drunken driving. Maine’s supreme court concluded the driver knew his passenger was drunk but encouraged him to drive because he was the “soberer” of the two.
Maine law says someone can be charged with promoting or facilitating a crime if he or she “solicits such other person to commit the crime, or aids or agrees to aid or attempts to aid such other person in planning or committing the crime,” the court said.