SCRANTON -- It's been more than two years since twins from New York State were killed while driving through Lackawanna County. All that time, their family said a truck driver from our area was at fault.
On Wednesday, that driver took responsibility in court, pleading no contest to homicide by motor vehicle but he doesn't admit to using drugs before the crash.
It was an unusual day in court. That driver, Wayne Kichar of Jessup was set to have a preliminary hearing on the charges he faced from that crash in 2011. He gave up his right to a hearing, and just a few hours later signed off on a plea deal.
Kichar pleaded no contest to homicide by motor vehicle and DUI. Kichar says a seizure caused him to crash, not because he was under the influence.
Bill and Lynn McKernan from Rochester were on their way to New York City and were driving through the Interstate 81/380 split in Dunmore.
Wayne Kichar was on the job for Cerminaro Construction when his truck lost control, went flying through a median and hit the McKernan’s car.
Bill and Lynn McKernan were killed instantly. Prosecutors say they had proof Kichar was under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time and proof that Kichar had a seizure. But it took nearly two years for charges to be filed.
Kichar was scheduled for a hearing, but instead pleaded no contest to some of those charges, homicide by motor vehicle and DUI.
Prosecutors from the Lackawanna county district attorney’s office said this was more than a DUI crash; Kichar was negligent because he never disclosed to his employer that he had epilepsy.
"If you're suffering from seizures and you stop taking your medication or don't seek treatment, this is what can happen,” said Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Robert Klein.
"Very unusual, if you consider the history of heart failure or a bad heart, if you're driving your car and you took a heart attack is that a criminal act? But it's a difficult case because of the loss, the terrible loss,” said Kichar’s attorney Pat Rogan.
Kichar's attorney says his plea deal was rushed through the court for the McKernan family who drove from Rochester, New York for the preliminary hearing. The family members were aggressive in making sure prosecutors stayed on the case. They hope their case leads to stricter DUI laws that make it easier to prosecute cases involving synthetic drugs.
"Just when you think things are at their lowest, they can get better. But keep pushing, keep fighting, keep asking questions," said the victims' sister Liz Graupman.
Wayne Kichar also pleaded guilty in another case. He admitted to assaulting his 10-year-old son earlier this year. He will be sentenced for both cases within the next few months. All together he could face 17 years in prison.