Mount Pleasant -- A man who drove his SUV into two motorcycles that were stopped at a red light last week, killing both riders, will face no criminal charges and will be cited for a minor traffic offense.
Charles J. McDonald, 38, of Meggett, was driving the Ford Explorer that struck the motorcyclists shortly before 11:30 a.m. May 11 on U.S. Highway 17 at Anna Knapp Boulevard, according to police. Motorcyclists James Doucette, 80, of Port Charlotte, Fla., and James Hines, 50, of Yaphank, N.Y., died in the accident, and the driver of a car stopped in front of them, 73-year-old Mary Lucarelli of Mount Pleasant, was injured.
McDonald's vehicle struck the two motorcycles, then Lucarelli's truck, and her truck then struck the last vehicle in line at the traffic light, according to police statements and reports. A police report says McDonald was going the speed limit, 45 mph, when he struck the stopped vehicles, and lists "driving too fast for conditions" and "distraction/inattention" as contributing factors in the accident.
The Mount Pleasant Police Department said the decision to file no criminal charges related to the two deaths came after a review with 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson's office. Wilson said Tuesday that she consulted with police officials at their request, but that the decision on charges was theirs.
Capt. Stan Gragg said police had no reason to believe alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident, and did not have cause to test McDonald. He also said there was no indication a cell phone was being used at the time of the wreck, but Gragg said he had no information as to why McDonald did not notice the motorcycles and cars stopped at the red light.
"It's sad, but accidents happen every day," said Lionel Lofton, McDonald's attorney. "He's very, very sorry that this happened."
"It was a terrible accident, but it was an accident," he said.
McDonald's treatment by police is similar to a number of other recent accidents involving motorcycles. In incidents this year in North Charleston, Ladson and Myrtle Beach, drivers were charged with failing to yield the right of way after collisions with motorcycles, two of which involved the death of the motorcyclist.
Such cases are treated quite differently if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the outcomes are similar.
In a 2008 wreck in Mount Pleasant, also involving two motorcycles and a sport-utility vehicle on U.S. 17, one man was killed and another injured after their bikes were struck from behind just after the red light they were stopped at had changed to green.
The driver of the SUV, Mallory Hood, now 22, was sentenced last month to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony DUI involving a fatality.
The traffic charge McDonald will face, traveling too fast for conditions, carries a fine and points against a driver's license. Lofton said he expects McDonald will pay the fine rather than fight the ticket.
Lofton said he expects civil litigation against McDonald could follow.
Mount Pleasant police Capt. Carl Ritchie said previously that the motorcyclists struck by McDonald were in the Myrtle Beach area for Bike Week and had decided to come to Charleston for the day.