ST. GEORGE – A man involved in a dirt bike-ATV accident in March that resulted in the death of a Santa Clara teen was sentenced in court Thursday.
Mackay Thomas Stephens, 27, of Brookside, pleaded guilty in 5th District Count to a class A misdemeanor related to the death of 17-year-old Austin Brett McElyea. Stephens was originally charged with a third-degree felony count of vehicle homicide criminal negligence involving driving under the influence of alcohol. The criminal count was reduced as part of a resolution reached between the defense and prosecution in the case.
Along with the reduced criminal charge, Stephens’ attorney, Marshall Witt, told Judge Eric Ludlow that additional sentencing recommendations stipulated that his client serve 90 days in jail, beginning Sept. 3; pay a $1,500 fine; submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation; and be placed on 18 months of probation. The probation would be supervised until the fine is paid off and the evaluation is completed and delivered to the court.
Washington County Deputy Attorney Ryan Shaum, who prosecuted the case, did not object to the recommendations. Shaum said he had spoken with McElyea’s family, who told him they did not want to seek prosecution, as they saw the incident as a tragic accident. However, they also acknowledged the state had a job to do, he said.
“Causation is an issue,” Shaum said.
It was still unclear who may have been more at fault, but Stephens’ intoxication certainly played a role, Shaum said.
According to court documents, on May 18, McElyea had been riding a dirt bike on a trail in the Veyo area when he stopped to make a U-turn. At the same time, Stephens was riding down the trail on an ATV and was unable to avoid colliding with the rear tire of McElyea’s bike. McElyea was ejected from the bike and rendered unconscious. He had been wearing a helmet, but it hadn’t been properly secured and was torn from his head.
A passerby performed CPR on McElyea, which was continued after emergency responders arrived. Life Flight was called in to airlift the boy to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Murphy, who responded to the accident, wrote in a probable cause statement that Stephens had a smell of alcohol on his breath. When questioned, Stephens said he had been drinking. After failing field sobriety tests, Stephens was ultimately taken into custody and charged.
“It was a terrible accident and I live with it every day, and I take full responsibility for it,” Stephens told the judge when allowed to address the court.
Before sentencing Stephens, Ludlow said he would follow the recommendations, but he also told Witt he was willing to recuse himself from doing so because he knows McElyea’s father. Witt said he had no objection to Ludlow issuing the final ruling.
Members of McElyea’s family were present in the courtroom during the hearing and departed after Ludlow sentenced Stephens according to the recommendations provided.
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