Saturday, March 30, 2002

Judge orders community service

Nurse blames sleep disorder for fatal accident

By Jennifer Vogel
Enquirer contributor

        FRANKLIN — A judge decided Friday that a nurse who was asleep at the wheel in an accident that killed a Franklin teen should not spend time in jail, but rather should educate high school students about the danger of sleep disorders.

        Daryl Ohair, 35, pleaded no contest to the vehicular manslaughter charge.

        He said he suffers from narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that is marked by uncontrollable sleep attacks and loss of muscle control.

        He said it was the undiagnosed disease that caused him to fall asleep on Nov. 6 while driving on Ohio 73 and kill 15-year-old skateboarder James R. “Jay” Brinegar.

        Mr. Ohair has since been diagnosed and is taking medication, but did admit to officers that he was sleep-deprived the week of the accident.

        In addition to working as a practical nurse, Mr. Ohair has been studying to become a registered nurse and is scheduled to graduate in May.

        Before sentencing Mr. Ohair, Franklin Municipal Court Judge James Ruppert read a letter to the court from Jay's father.

        “I no longer have any purpose in being alive,” the letter stated. “I was trying to raise a decent, honest, caring man — all that was destroyed in a nanosecond.”

        In the letter and in the courtroom Friday, Mr. Brinegar asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge — 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.

        Mr. Brinegar was surrounded by about 10 family members, many crying, while the letter was read.

        Judge Ruppert did impose the maximum $750 fine, but suspended the 90 days in jail if Mr. Ohair completes 500 hours of community service by speaking to high school students about the danger of falling asleep at the wheel.

        Mr. Ohair also lost all driving privileges for two years.

        Mr. Ohair told Judge Ruppert he feels deep remorse for causing the accident and that he understands Mr. Brinegar's anger.

        “I have spent most of my adult life caring for people as a nurse — knowing that something I did or did not do cost the life of a person affects me greatly,” he said. “I will never be the same person again.”

        Mr. Brinegar said he does not believe that Mr. Ohair is remorseful, and he still has many questions about the case.

        “If he is remorseful, why did he hire an attorney? What is he trying to hide?” Mr. Brinegar said. “The narcolepsy has been bogus from the start — he's a nurse and he didn't know?”

        “He is remorseful, so very remorseful,” said the Rev. Don Ohair, the defendant's father.

        “I pray with him every night and tell him to take this one day at a time and never lose compassion for (the Brinegar) family.”

        Mr. Brinegar said he plans to file a wrongful death suit against Mr. Ohair and wishes that the charge of vehicular manslaughter carried the same weight as a murder charge.

        “He should be in jail. I never thought that (a person) could hit the streets, kill someone and have it be a misdemeanor,” he said.


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