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Watsontown man to face manslaughter charge for ’15 wreck

By Staff | Apr 21, 2016

MONTGOMERY – A Watsontown area faces charges of vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter after his tractor-trailer truck struck and killed a man changing a flat tire nearly a year ago on Route 15 near the Clinton-Brady township line, state police said.

It is believed that Charles Eugene Mitchell was awake for more than 30 hours when his rig struck 70-year-old Willis A. Foley, of Camden, South Carolina, about 2:40 p.m. last May 22, Trooper Jonathan Buynak said in an affidavit.

Mitchell, 42, of 1415 Turbot Ave., Delaware Township, was traveling south on Route 15 and crossed “onto the west shoulder, striking a horse trailer, a pickup truck and Folly,” Buynak said.

Foley had been driving the pickup, which was hauling a trailer, Buynak said, adding that the pickup became disabled as a result of its left rear tire being flat.”

A passenger in Foley’s truck, William Leonard, was outside the vehicle between the truck and the trailer as the tractor-trailer was approaching, Buynak said.

“Leonard was walking out from between the two vehicles and had to dive out of the way” to avoid being struck by Mitchell’s 2003 Kenworth,” the trooper added.

However, Leonard was injured because when the tractor-trailer struck the horse trailer, the “impact pushed the horse trailer onto him,” Buynak said. The extent of Leonard’s injuries were not reported in the affidavit, nor was his age or address.

Mitchell claimed he was was “run off the road by an unidentified red SUV, but that account was inconsistent with multiple witness statements” the trooper said.

The crash was the result of Mitchell likely being “fatigued due to his lack of sleep and his intentional violation of hour rules,” Buynak said.

Investigators obtained a search warrant that allowed them to examine the usage of the two cellphones Mitchell had on him at the time of the crash.

From examining those cellphone records, “it was determined that Mitchell was likely awake approximately 30 hours and 44 minutes” before the crash, Buynak said.

The records showed that Mitchell’s “extensive use of his cellular devices likely created a significant distraction and hazard,” Buynak said.

“He dialed or received 364 phone calls during those 30 hours and 44 minutes, which totaled 27 hours and 36 minutes,” Buynak said, adding that those calls took up nearly 90 percent of Michell’s time while he was on the road.

However, the trooper did not say that Mitchell was actually on one of his cellphones at the time of the crash.

Police also determined that Mitchell allegedly submitted “false entries” in his log book.

Charged with vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering, careless driving, reckless driving and several other summary violations, Mitchell, who is free on $15,000 bail, will have a preliminary hearing today before District Judge Jon E. Kemp.