Eight months after a fiery Whitehall Township crash that killed three people, police on Monday charged a Slatington man in their deaths while his attorney claimed the accident happened because his client suffered a seizure.
John Edward Mayer, 32, of the 6000 block of Bottom Road is charged with three counts each of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, and various traffic offenses. Mayer is free under $200,000 unsecured bail, according to court records. The crash killed 16-year-old George Sanchez, who was driving a sedan with his mother, 42-year-old Sharon Gonzalez.
On Monday, authorities also announced that Mayer's mother, Virginia Mayer, 60, died five months after the Feb. 23 crash. She was a passenger in her son's pickup truck and authorities said she died due to blunt force trauma she suffered in the crash.
Mayer's attorney, Joshua Karoly, said Monday that his client had a seizure and blacked out at the time the crash happened. According to court records, Mayer told police he and his mother had dinner and he was driving her home when the last thing he remembered was being in the left lane.
Karoly would not say exactly what Mayer's health issues are, but noted he was under the care of a doctor for a "seizure disorder" and had a valid license to drive at the time of the crash. Drugs or alcohol were not a factor in the crash, Karoly said.
He said Mayer surrendered to police on Monday. "This is a tragic situation for everyone involved," Karoly said. "John is beyond broken up with what happened." The investigation into the crash was complex and that's why it took so long for charges to be filed, said Whitehall Township police Lt. Ribello Bertoni. He declined to comment further on the case.
Police said Mayer was driving at least 86 mph when he drove through a red light near Eberhart Road and Route 145, according to a news release from Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin. Karoly said he believes that when Mayer blacked out, he may have jammed his foot on the gas. According to court records:
The crash was witnessed by Whitehall Township police Officer Richard Garner, who was on duty and stopped at a traffic light at MacArthur and Eberhart roads. Garner said Mayer's truck ran the northbound red signal, crashing into the sedan. He said both vehicles skidded for more than 100 feet. As Garner stopped and tried to help, he saw flames coming from beneath the sedan. Both Sanchez and Gonzalez were unresponsive. Within seconds, the vehicle was in flames and Garner could not get inside.
Several other witnesses told police Mayer's truck was speeding and he ran a red light. At the time of the crash, authorities said the section of highway was under construction and the maximum speed in the area had been reduced to 30 mph.