Very drunk driver charged in fatal crash


A Coon Rapids man was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide when he rammed into the back of another car while drunk, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

The two felony counts against Michael John Vanwagner, 24, were for driving negligently while under the influence of alcohol and while driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08. In that rear-end collision, Jason McCarthy, 16, of Brooklyn Center, sustained serious injuries and died a week later. Vanwagner  also was charged with a misdemeanor of driver involved in a property damage accident and failing to stop when he hit a car just minutes before the fatal collision.

According to the criminal complaint, Vanwagner’s blood-alcohol level was .29, nearly four times the legal limit. Minnesota State Patrol investigators learned that the first accident in the early afternoon of July 22, a mother and her daughter were driving in separate vehicles on Minnesota 252 near 85th Avenue North in Brooklyn Park when the mother was struck by the silver Pontiac Grand Am driven by Vanwagner. She pulled over to the side of the road and he slowed down as though he was going to do the same, before suddenly swerving and hitting her car again before coming to a stop in the grass. He then backed up and drove back onto the highway, fleeing the scene, although the daughter took down his license number, the criminal complaint states.

Another witness watched as Vanwagner drove into the grassy median and came to a stop. As the witness was calling 911, Vanwagner took off again and, without braking, smashed into the back of McCarthy’s car while traveling at about 60 miles per hour. The force was so great that both cars went up on their ends, before coming down upright, according to the complaint. At the time of the accident, McCarthy was stopped in the left turn lane at Minnesota 252 and 73rd Avenue North.

Vanwagner is on probation for terroristic threats and is being held without bail on that case in the Hennepin County Jail.

Criminal complaint (PDF)