A 15-year-old Dayton boy has been charged with supplying alcohol to an Ellicott City youth who died after a Dec. 9 truck wreck, Howard County police said yesterday.
The teen, whose name is protected under juvenile confidentiality laws, was escorted to police headquarters Wednesday by a parent and issued three citations.
Police confirmed for the first time yesterday that Christian Herrera, 16, had been under the influence of alcohol when his truck crashed in a culvert on Route 32. His blood alcohol level was 0.059 percent, according to a medical examiner's report, less than the 0.10 percent considered legally drunk for adults under Maryland law. It's illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol.
The boy's father said that until yesterday he had been certain that his son had not been drinking, because doctors at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center had told him that alcohol and drugs weren't involved.
"I'm surprised," said Alfredo J. Herrera, an Ellicott City pediatrician. "None of this helps me at all. He was an excellent kid who made a mistake that cost him his life."
Police said the 15-year-old had given Mr. Herrera's son, a junior at Glenelg High School, and other youths some form of alcohol on Dec. 9. The Herrera boy had been drinking before he drove his 1994 Ford Explorer north on state Route 32 near West Ivory Road that Friday, police said.
About 7 p.m., police said, he used the shoulder of the road to pass two vehicles. The right wheels of his truck struck a culvert and the vehicle flipped several times.
The Herrera youth, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown through the passenger-side window. He was pronounced dead two days later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Rescue officials found opened alcoholic beverages -- believed to have been purchased that day by the 15-year-old -- inside the truck.
Police said they are not sure if the Herrera boy had been drinking while at the wheel.
Detectives began investigating the 15-year-old after questioning the Herrera boy's friends. Police are not sure if the charged youth used a fake license to obtain the liquor, said Sgt. Steve Keller, a police spokesman.
The boy was charged with possession of alcohol, obtaining alcohol and furnishing alcohol to persons under 21, police said.
Police announced the charges yesterday, five days after they were filed, because investigators waited to contact the victim's family, Sergeant Keller said.
If he's found guilty, the 15-year-old could be fined or sentenced to do community service.
Mr. Herrera said he carries no animosity toward the 15-year-old.
"He probably didn't know what he was doing," Mr. Herrera said. "Maybe he thought it was cool. But I couldn't ask the courts to put him in jail."
The Herrera boy was one of 15 people who died in traffic accidents last year in Howard County. Four of the accidents involved alcohol, and the Herrera youth was the only juvenile killed, police said.
Critics of teen-age drinking said charges against the boy reflect a harder attitude by county police toward teen-age drinking.
"Kids need to be held responsible for their actions," said Bonnie Cook, president of Howard County's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter.