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Rockville man pleads guilty in fatal crash

Driver fled on foot after 3 friends killed

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A Rockville man pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of manslaughter and failure to remain at the scene of a fatal accident, charges that carry up to 40 years in prison and which Montgomery County prosecutors said were so serious that they would push for the 20-year-old to spend substantial time behind bars.

Kevin B. Coffay, of the 16000 block of Cutlass Drive, admitted he was responsible for the drunken-driving deaths of three friends and fellow students in the early morning hours of May 15 when he crashed his car and fled the scene on foot. A fourth passenger survived the crash.

"We will be asking for a substantial period of incarceration," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy. "This young man should never have been behind the wheel of that car. There was pain and suffering these children went through."

Mr. Coffay pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court, in a courtroom filled with his supporters and friends and family members of the victims.

Mr. Coffay, dressed in gray suit, said little more than "Yes, your honor" and drank water from a paper cup as Judge Theresa Adams reviewed his decision to waive his right to a trial.

Graduates and students of Magruder High School — where the driver and four passengers attended — listened as county Assistant State's Attorney Bryan Roslund read the autopsy reports and the statements from police, emergency personnel and 19-year-old Charles Anthony Nardella, the only passenger to survive the crash.

The three who died were Spencer Datt, 18, of the 5700 block of Sunrise Hill Road in Derwood; John Hoover, 20, of the 5800 block of Rolling Drive in Rockville; and Haeley N. McGuire, 18, of the 5600 block of Artesian Drive in Rockville.

Reading from the statements, Mr. Roslund said Mr. Nardella told police that Coffay was going so fast that he began "shaking the driver's seat in an effort to get the defendant to slow down."

A police officer found Mr. Nardella wandering the street near the crash site, statements said. Asked the whereabouts of Coffay, Mr. Nardella responded, "He got out and ran into the woods."

Charlie Hoover lost his brother John in the accident. "He was full of life. Always smiling. You can't find someone who did not like my little brother," he said outside the courtroom.

Mr. McCarthy spoke on behalf of the victims' families, two of whom he knew personally.

"The families are satisfied with [the plea], but they lost three magnificent children," he said. "To an extent, the plea is pretty hollow because their children are not with them."

Coffay is free on bond and will be sentenced Jan. 5.

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