An 18-year-old Tamaqua man was formally charged in connection with a March 28 hit-and-run accident that severely injured a pedestrian.
Steven Christopher Kupetz, 18, of 200 Orwigsburg St., Tamaqua, was arraigned Thursday morning before District Judge Steven Bayer, Tamaqua, on a variety of charges that included a felony count of hit and run that resulted in serious bodily injury. The other charges, filed by Tamaqua Patrolman Matt Bynon, included a misdemeanor count of hit and run that resulted in injury, failure to provide information or render assistance following an accident and careless driving. Kupetz was represented by attorney Brian Gazo of Palmerton.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Robert Rehrig, 20, of 105 Washington St., Tamaqua, was walking in the 100 block of Lafayette Street around 9 p.m. that day when he was struck and severely injured by a westbound motor vehicle. Debris left at the scene was identified as coming from a maroon Subaru.
While Rehrig was being airlifted to St. Luke's Hospital, Bethlehem, officers secured the scene and contacted the Reading barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police, requesting an accident reconstruction team.
A maroon 1997 Subaru with front end damage consistent with the accident was found approximately two hours later, parked on Green Street, near the intersection with Orwigsburg Street. The vehicle registration came back to a Bernard Kupetz with the Orwigsburg Street address.
Officers determined the vehicle had been driven earlier that night by Steven Kupetz. The teen was taken into custody, questioned and then released to his family.
Charges were filed after Officer Bynon received reports from the state police reconstruction team and after consultation with Schuylkill County District Attorney James Goodman.
"We wanted to make sure the investigation was complete, and thorough, before filing charges," Bynon noted. "There was a lot of work involved by Tamaqua police, state police and the D.A.'s office. There was a lot of evidence to process."
Attorney Gazo said his client was "shaken badly by the entire incident. A young man was unintentionally hurt and has suffered a great deal. But there are always at least two sides to every story and social media sites have been portraying my client in a bad light. I would hope that everyone remembers the presumption of innocence in every court case. Let's let this play out in the courts, not the Internet."
Officer Bynon summed it up by remarking, "I hope this turns out to be a learning experience for everyone. If you are ever involved in an accident, make sure you stop and either exchange information or contact police. If Mr. Kupetz had stopped that night, this would be a totally different situation and he would be facing summary motor vehicle charges instead of felony criminal charges."
Judge Bayer set bail at $25,000 unsecured after determining that Kupetz was not a flight risk and has significant ties to the community.
Rehrig has been released from the hospital and continues to recuperate at home.