The multiple factors in Wednesday's double-fatal car crash on Buffalo's East Side -- alcohol, speed and an alleged red-light violation -- will allow prosecutors to seek a vehicular homicide charge that could lead to up to 15 years in prison for one of the drivers, authorities say.
Michael Thomas, 24, of Phyllis Avenue, already has been charged with driving while intoxicated, imprudent speed and passing a red light, following the early-morning crash that killed his two passengers at Bailey Avenue and East Ferry Street.
Anthony McCrayer, 20, of Keystone Street, Buffalo, and James Elias, 29, of Richmond, Va., were pronounced dead at the scene after the 4:30 a.m. crash. Thomas was listed in serious condition late Wednesday, following surgery in Erie County Medical Center.
"It looks at this point that it's something that's probably going to be presented to a grand jury," Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said late Wednesday.
The aggravating factors in Wednesday's crash would allow a grand jury to consider charges all the way up to reckless manslaughter, a Class C felony punishable by a maximum of up to 15 years, the district attorney suggested.
Under state law, reckless manslaughter may be charged when a person perceives the risk of his actions but disregards that risk and causes a death.
"The more aggravating factors you have, it makes it easier to argue that the person was aware of the risks and disregarded them," Clark explained.
The Buffalo Police Accident Investigation Unit said the speeding car driven by Thomas slammed into a sport utility vehicle driven by Buffalo Detective Sgt. Danny Owens, 48, who was off-duty at the time of the crash.
According to police reports, Thomas was heading south on Bailey Avenue when his car struck the northbound vehicle driven by Owens, who was trying to turn left onto East Ferry Street. Elias had to be pried out of the front seat of the 1997 Geo sedan.