Hit-and-run driver found | ParkRecord.com

Hit-and-run driver found

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A Park City man acknowledges he drove a car into two towering sculptures off Bonanza Drive in February and will pay for the damage, his attorney says.

The Park City Police Department says Kerry Griffith, 52, who lives in Prospector, faces a preliminary charge of leaving the scene of an accident, a class B misdemeanor. Such crimes are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A formal charge had not been filed by midday Friday.

Scott C. Williams, Griffith’s attorney, says he expects the formal charge to be the same. Williams declines to discuss what sort of plea Griffith will enter until prosecutors file the formal charge.

"He will accept full responsibility for his actions and the plea will reflect that," Williams says, describing the upcoming proceedings as an "open-and-shut case."

Williams says Griffith plans to pay for the damage to the sculptures, which belonged to the Iron Horse Gallery and were on display outside Right At Home, a nearby store.

Williams refuses to talk about the details of the case, including why Griffith drove away afterward. He says Griffith, who is a sixth-grade English teacher at Ecker Hill International Middle School, had not been drinking alcohol before the wreck.

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The wreck occurred at about 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 23 when Griffith veered off Bonanza Drive and slammed into the copper and steel sculptures. The Park City Police Department said at the time customers watched as what appeared to be a blue-colored Subaru struck them. The pieces have a combined value of $7,000. They stood 14 and 16 feet tall.

According to the Police Department, the driver was on Bonanza Drive, drove across a grassy area outside the store and hit the sculptures. Witnesses told the police the driver turned the car around and left, heading south on Bonanza Drive, the direction toward Old Town.

Rick Ryan, a Police Department lieutenant, says Griffith’s attorney called the department at the beginning of March indicating that Griffith would turn himself in. Just before, Ryan says, police investigators had discovered the damaged car at a body shop in Salt Lake City. The authorities had requested the body shop hold the car.

Ryan says the body shop, which he did not identify, contacted the Police Department after a worker there heard of the hit-and-run accident in Park City. A police officer investigated and suspected the car was involved.

"He didn’t get away with leaving the scene of an accident," Ryan says.

He says the vehicle, a 2006 Subaru Legacy wagon, suffered extensive damage to the front. Police investigators at the accident scene retrieved a hubcap with the name ‘Subaru’ stamped on it, part of the front fender and a black bottle emblazoned with the car’s make.

Wintzer-Wolfe Properties, the landlord where the accident occurred, offered a $500 reward for information leading to the suspect. Mary Wintzer says she plans to talk to the body shop about the reward.

"It was so important because they were endangering people’s lives by driving across the bike path and the parking lot," Wintzer says. "I really saw them as a danger to the public."

It is unclear whether more details of the accident will be publicized. It seems unlikely that Griffith will be made to testify at a trial since it appears the prosecutors and his attorneys will reach an agreement.

"Was it a bee flew up their nose? Were they talking on their cell phone? There’s no way we’ll ever know that," Wintzer says.

A worker at the nearby store told The Park Record afterward there was a "huge noise" when the sculptures were struck and the gallery owner told the newspaper then that the "car had to hit with a lot of force" and the driver probably was speeding.

The accident occurred as Park City officials and regular Parkites were engaged in a long-running discussion about ways to make Park City safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and others not driving cars. Bonanza Drive was among the chief concerns and was the site of an earlier accident in which a woman was badly injured by a drunken driver.

In 1996, Griffith pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving on the wrong side of the road and was fined $57, Third District Court records show. A charge of driving too fast for the conditions was dismissed then, according to the court.