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Crime & Courts

Lakeland driver arrested in crash that killed three


Published:   |   Updated: May 3, 2013 at 06:06 AM

Polk County sheriff's deputies have charged a Lakeland man with multiple charges in Sunday morning's crash that resulted in the deaths of three people and the severe injury of another.

Edward McCoy, 21, is charged with three counts of DUI causing death; one count of DUI causing serious bodily injury, three counts vehicular homicide; and one count each of possessing cannabis and possession/use of drug paraphernalia.

According to an affidavit, about 2:42 a.m., McCoy was driving a 2000 GMC pickup south on Cornet Road at a high rate of speed, forcing another vehicle off the road to avoid a collision. He then ran a stop sign at Shepherd Road, striking a 2006 Chrysler Sebring. The impact caused both vehicles to roll over, landing on their tops.

Three people in the Chrysler – driver Dorothy Operhall, 56, and Leonard Simmons, 51, both of Mulberry, and Melina Helbig, 48, of Rochester, Pa. – died of their injuries. A fourth person, Robert Helbig, 50, of Rochester, Pa., was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Deputies said they smelled alcohol coming from McCoy, and crime scene technicians found a homemade pipe in his clothing at LRMC, where McCoy was taken after the crash for treatment.

Investigators said they discovered he had just left a bar, where he had been drinking for several hours. A test showed McCoy’s blood alcohol level was .234, the affidavit said.

McCoy was arrested Thursday night and taken to the Polk County jail.

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