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Buckland teen charged in fatal texting crash

GREENFIELD — A teenage driver involved in a fatal June motorcycle-car crash in Charlemont has been charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent driving and texting while driving.

Jacob Earl, 17, of Buckland, was driving a Honda Accord when the car allegedly crossed to the wrong side of Route 2 and hit a motorcyclist about 4:30 p.m. on June 21.

A state police investigation has determined that Earl was sending and receiving text messages “immediately prior to the crash,” according to a report filed by trooper Jonathan O’Loughlin.

Earl has been charged with motor vehicle homicide, sending or receiving electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle, and a marked lanes violation. He has been ordered not to drive while the case is pending.

The law against texting while driving is a relatively new one, just two years old last month.

The motorcyclist, Douglas Chouinard, 56, of Enfield, Conn., was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, and died that evening from his injuries.

A second motorcyclist, Drina Carey, 53, also of Enfield, was also taken to the hospital, with non-life-threatening injuries.

The first conviction for a motor vehicle homicide linked to texting occurred a month before the fatal Charlemont accident.

Aaron Deveau of Haverhill sent 193 text messages the February 2011 day he crashed head-on into 55-year-old Donald Bowley Jr.’s pickup. Some were sent just before the accident that took Bowley’s life and seriously injured his girlfriend, according to a USA Today article.

Deveau was sentenced to 2 1∕ 2 years in jail. He was ordered to serve one year of the sentence, with the remainder suspended. His license was suspended for 15 years.

Deveau was 17 at the time.

The law against texting while driving was enacted in September 2010. It received near-unanimous support from the state Legislature, passing by a vote of 154-1 in the House of Representatives, and 37-0 in the Senate. It carries penalties of a $100 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second, and $500 for a third violation. It also states that drivers younger than 18 may not use a cell phone in any way while driving.

Earl is due back in court Nov. 20 for a pretrial conference.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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