2 teens charged in fatal crash

Source: Pottstown Mercury
Author: Carl Hesslet Jr
Date: 2002/04/02

Bradley Richard Heller, 18, of the 500 block of Schubelish Road, Perkiomenville, and Travis Aaron Drumheller, also 18, of the 2000 block of North Charlotte Street, Lower Pottsgrove, surrendered to authorities at the office of District Justice Thomas A. Palladino in Pottstown.

Both men were charged with homicide by vehicle, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, racing on highways, reckless driving and careless driving in connection with the four-vehicle crash that killed Jason W. Freed 19, of Perkiomenville, and Adrianne R. Stock, 18, of Bechtelsville.

Heller, who arrived in court in a wheelchair, and Drumheller were released on $20,000 bail to await their preliminary hearings on April 8. As a condition of bail, neither man is permitted to drive. If convicted of the vehicular homicide charges, both men face a maximum of 14 years in prison.

"This is a very serious matter. Tragedies like this are very troubling to all of us, especially to those of us who are parents," said Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. "We're seeing a lot of boys will be boys on the highways and the tragic results are striking."

According to investigators, Heller, driving a white, 1984 Mercury Capri with Freed and Stock as passengers, and Drumheller, driving a red 1990 Ford Mustang with one passenger, first encountered one another in the southbound lanes of Route 100 in Douglass (Mont.).

Drumheller, according to court documents, told police that Heller caused the front end of the Capri to "jump."

"It was like, show me what you got, so I took off and so did he," Drumheller allegedly told authorities.

"Our interview with Travis Drumheller indicated that he recognized from the way the Capri was being driven and the revving of motors and the body language of the driver that this was an invitation to race," Castor said. "We don't believe the two men knew each other, but young men with hot cars want to show off their power and sometimes they don't use the best judgment. Clearly, that's the case here.

"They decided that they were going to engage in a race on the highway. They proceeded at a high rate of speed, in excess of 90 mph, south on the highway."

One witness told police that the two cars passed his car "like I was standing still," as he encountered the Capri and Mustang in the southbound lanes of Route 100 at Route 73.

According to the criminal complaint, Drumheller's Mustang eventually stopped at the red traffic signal at Grosser Road and Route 100 and Heller pulled his Capri behind Drumheller.

When the traffic signal turned green, "the red car jumped on it and the white car took off after him ..it was very obvious that they were chasing each other," one witness told police.

As Heller and Drumheller reached the intersection of Route 100 and Moyer Road, they encountered a southbound Ford Taurus and Drumheller had to drive his Mustang onto the right shoulder of the highway to avoid colliding with the Taurus, authorities said.

A passenger in Drumheller's car told authorities that, "I thought we were going to die right there."

After passing the Taurus "like a bullet," Drumheller proceeded to drive away, according to the criminal complaint. But Heller lost control of his Capri in an effort to avoid hitting the Taurus and crossed the grass median into the northbound lanes of Route 100, according to prosecutors.

Heller's car struck a northbound Mercury Cougar operated by Stephanie Ochar, 19, of Bechtelsville. Ochar had to be extricated from the twisted wreckage and was in critical condition for several days at the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center near Allentown.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas McGoldrick said Ochar is still recovering from her injuries.

As Heller's Capri collided with Ochar's Cougar, the force of the impact split the Capri in half. Authorities believe both Freed, a front seat passenger in Heller's car, and Stock, a rear seat passenger, were ejected from the Capri during that impact.

"Our experts indicate that at the time of the spin, the Capri was traveling somewhere between 80 and 85 mph," Castor said.

Freed, a 2001 graduate of Boyertown Area High School, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Stock, a 2001 graduate of Daniel Boone High School, died six days later at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Heller was injured in the crash and spent several days in the hospital.

Even though Drumheller's Mustang never made contact with the Capri or other vehicles involved in the crash, he's still culpable for the deaths, Castor explained.

"What you have here is an accomplice liability situation. But for the conduct of both parties engaging in the racing there would have been no racing and there would have been no accident," Castor said. "That's recklessness in the extreme and supports the (vehicular homicide charge)."

However, Drumheller was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident because there is no evidence he knew that an accident had occurred as he sped away, authorities said.

Two other northbound vehicles also collided with portions of the Capri after it split in half, but the occupants of those vehicles were not seriously injured, authorities said.



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