Judge: State didn’t prove Poland doctor was drunk during fatal boat crash

Several charges against Yurich were dismissed, but he was found guilty of vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident

Dr. Joseph Yurich testified that he remembers very little about the crash on the Berlin Reservoir in May of 2015. He said the sound of the crash brought back memories of his time serving in Iraq. It caused him to forget what happened and go home, he testified. 

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A judge issued his verdict in the case against a Poland doctor, accused of killing an Akron man in a fatal boat crash in 2015.

Mahoning County Judge Jack Durkin found Dr. Joseph Yurich guilty of vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident. But, Judge Durkin failed to find Yurich guilty of the more serious charges that he was facing — aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and OVI — saying the state failed to prove Yurich was drunk at the time of the crash.

Yurich was charged after crashing into a bass-fishing boat on the Berlin Reservoir, which killed Neal Brian Cuppett and badly injured Bruce Lindamood.

Prosecutors claimed that Yurich was drunk, and when questioned by Attorney Dawn Cantalamessa, Yurich admitted that he went to a bar earlier that evening.

Judge Durkin said, however, that every witness testified that they saw no obvious signs of impairment.

“The case law is clear that evidence of drinking or evidence that a person has an odor of alcohol is not sufficient to establish impairment,” he said.

Prosecutors also said Yurich was driving too fast at the time and stopped only long enough to curse at the victims before speeding away from the scene.

In court Tuesday, Yurich testified that the sound and impact of the crash triggered memories of his time serving as an Army surgeon in Iraq. He said after that, he remembered little about the crash and said it took him and his wife an hour to piece together what happened and call authorities.

Judge Durkin said that story didn’t add up, however, pointing to Yurich’s previous claims that he struck a rock that night and needed to get his boat back home before it sank.

“The defendant did not tell his wife that he heard an explosion. He testified that he said that he hit something prior to telling his wife that, he also called his friend, Andrew Cronin, and told him that he hit something and it’s not good,” he said.

Judge Durkin said Yurich acted with negligence.

“The defendant’s negligence was, in fact, the proximate cause of death of Neal Cuppett,” he said.

Judge Durkin is scheduled to sentence Yurich on Wednesday.

The charges that Yurich faces are first-degree misdemeanors and carry a sentence of up to six months in jail for each, as well as probation. Yurich’s lawyers say he will also have to report his conviction to the state’s medical board.


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