Navy graduate dies in wreck with a drunken driver in N.J.


A recent Naval Academy graduate who was killed by a drunken driver in New Jersey will be buried tomorrow afternoon in the academy's cemetery.

John Robert Elliott, 22, who graduated in May, was driving home to Egg Harbor Township early Saturday with his girlfriend when a driver -- who had been arrested hours earlier on a drunken- driving charge -- swerved over the double-yellow line and hit Elliott's 1994 Nissan head-on in Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey State Police reported.

Elliott and the other driver died at the accident scene near Camden, said New Jersey State Police spokesman John Hagerty.

Elliott's girlfriend, Kristen Hohenwarter, 22, of Westminster, remained in critical condition yesterday in the trauma unit at the Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Michael Pangle, 37, of Woodstown, N.J., had been arrested late Friday night by state police and charged with driving under the influence after registering a blood alcohol content of 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit, authorities said.

He was released hours later when a friend, Kenneth Powell, 38, of Pennsville, picked him up from the barracks to take him home.

In New Jersey, the charge is considered a motor vehicle violation and "is not a jailable offense," Hagerty said, explaining that Pangle had to be released when Powell came to take him home.

Police allege that Powell dropped off Pangle in Pitts- grove, where Pangle had left his 1987 Chevrolet Blazer when he was taken into police custody.

Powell has been charged with allowing an intoxicated person to drive, Hagerty said. Additional criminal charges may be filed once the Salem County prosecutor's review is complete, he said.

Elliott, a systems engineering major, was scheduled to attend flight school at Pensacola, Fla., in the fall, Naval Academy officials said.

"I'm in shock about losing one of my friends like that," said Ensign Travis A. Brewster. "He was a good guy, and I'm going to miss him."

Brewster said that much of Elliott's spare time at the Naval Academy was devoted to his girlfriend and to playing on an intramural flag football team.

"He was one of the nicest guys I ever met," Brewster said. "He would do anything for you."

Services will be held in Linwood, N.J. A graveside ceremony at the academy is planned for 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Sun staff writer Claire E. Adams contributed to this article.

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