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Authorities probe party before fatal crash

Authorities are investigating whether the driver involved an Aug. 5 crash that killed an Angels Camp man had attended a birthday party in Murphys where alcohol was being served to minors.

An Aug. 11 release from Sheriff Dennis Downum states a deputy was dispatched to 225 Pennsylvania Gulch Road at 10:40 p.m. on a reported disturbance between a man and a woman. When the deputy arrived at 10:55 p.m., the release said the deputy observed an individual run from Michelson Elementary School to the residence.

The deputy spoke to several people standing in front of the residence and an adult male said there was no disturbance, but a party was going on. A 29-year-old woman who said she lived at the property then talked with the deputy.

She denied there was any disturbance and allowed the deputy to check the property to make sure everyone was alright. On the rear deck of the house, the release says, the deputy observed several people in the backyard and “a keg of beer in a plastic tub sitting on the deck.”

The deputy began asking individuals if they were over age 21 and if any of them had consumed alcohol.

The press release states the deputy then received a call from dispatch saying a woman had barricaded herself in a closet because she believed someone was breaking into her house in Arnold.

At 11:20 p.m. Aug. 5, a 1984 Chevrolet pickup, driven by Zachary Airola, 17, of Angels Camp drove off Highway 4, struck a tree off the right shoulder and rolled over several times, according to the California Highway Patrol. The passenger, George Langston, 19, of Angels Camp died at a Modesto area hospital from injuries suffered after being thrown from the pickup as it rolled.

At 11:50 p.m., the deputy returned to the Pennsylvania Gulch Road residence and talked with several males who said they lived at the residence. They told the deputy several of the partygoers had left the property after the deputy left earlier in the evening, according to the sheriff´s release.

One male at the house told the deputy the party had been for his 16th birthday and “a whole bunch of people showed up uninvited.” The female returned to the house and told the deputy she had purchased the keg of beer but others brought alcohol with them to the party, the release said.

The deputy informed the woman there had been a vehicle accident during the time he had been away at the Arnold call and he asked her if a silver, Ford F-150 pickup had been at the party.

The woman said the pickup had not been at the party. But when she learned Langston and Airola´s identities from a person who had driven by the scene, she began to cry, the sheriff´s release states.

The sheriff´s statement said the deputy then received another call and he was unable to return to the Murphys residence. The case was given to a sheriff´s investigator who determined where the keg was purchased, but the sheriff´s release did not disclose the name of the store.

The release did not state the name of the woman nor the name of the deputy who responded to the calls. Further, none of the deputy´s actions at the house party the night of the fatal crash were listed on the sheriff´s log, a routine account of activities.

In a phone call on Monday afternoon, Downum said it was his office´s policy not to divulge names unless an individual was arrested or charged with a crime.

According to the sheriff´s release, the case has gone to the District Attorney´s Office for review of a complaint of contributing to the delinquency of minors and furnishing alcohol to minors. No one at the District Attorney´s Office could confirm receipt of the case file Monday afternoon.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Mike Taylor. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com