Northway crash victims’ medical data OK’d for release to defense
BALLSTON SPA Medical records for two teens who were injured in a car crash that killed two of their friends will be released to the defense attorney for Dennis Drue, the driver who hit the vehicle in which they were riding.
Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano on Tuesday ordered the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office to release records for Matthew Hardy’s and Bailey Wind’s medical treatment after the Dec. 1 crash on the Northway near Exit 8. Hardy and Wind suffered serious injuries in the crash, and the charges against Drue, 22, are based on that information.
“We believe that the medical records prove that,” said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III, adding that to build a case, “It is important for the defense to know what the medical situation is of Hardy and Wind.”
Drue, of Halfmoon, was indicted last month on 59 counts relating to the crash, the most serious of which is felony aggravated vehicular homicide, stemming from the death of two Shenendehowa High School seniors, Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart. Prosecutors contend Drue had enough alcohol and marijuana in his system to be impaired at the time of the accident.
Drue was released on his own recognizance from Saratoga County Jail on Jan. 7 but did not appear in court Tuesday. His attorney, Stephen Coffey, declined to comment on why getting the medical records is important to his case.
After brief discussion, Scarano ordered the records released. “It would seem to me that these would be relevant to the defense,” he said.
“It’s not unusual,” Murphy said of the order. “I was expecting it.” Because of patient privacy rules, he explained, a court order is the only way that the prosecution can turn over medical records. The DA’s office had subpoenaed the records for the grand jury to view.
Murphy said the case is “pretty far along” in the discovery process that is a preparation for trial.
He thinks the defense may ask for the opportunity to independently test samples of Drue’s blood that were taken at the crime scene to compare them to state police crime lab results.
Drue faces 52 felony charges, plus several misdemeanors and violations, including an accusation that he had a bag with a small amount of marijuana and a partially smoked marijuana cigarette. The aggravated vehicular homicide charge could give him up to 25 years in state prison.
On the night of Dec. 1, Drue was allegedly speeding in the far left northbound lane on the Northway when he switched quickly across the middle lane to the far right lane, clipping the back of a 2000 Ford Explorer that Stewart was driving in the right lane.
The Explorer flipped several times, killing Stewart and Rivers, who was sitting in the back seat. Wind, Stewart’s girlfriend, suffered a serious neck injury, and Hardy, Rivers’ boyfriend, was partially thrown from the vehicle and broke several bones.
Stewart and Rivers were standout athletes and students and well-known in the Shenendehowa community; Stewart was captain of the football team and Rivers was a softball player.
The four were coming home from a basketball game at the Times Union Center between Siena College and the University at Albany.
Drue escaped serious injury in the wreck.