NANTICOKE — A girl talking to 16-year-old vehicular homicide suspect Tyler Duda on a cellphone heard the crash, then the screams and later paramedics talking about the fatal accident on West Union Street.
Arrest papers filed Tuesday against Tyler Duda, 16, of Tamanini Drive, Kingston Township, allege he was talking to the girl while he was driving to her house in Nanticoke on July 5. He was jailed at the county prison for lack of $1 million bail Tuesday after arraignment.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Duda took his mother’s 2013 Ford Edge without her knowledge. Duda was joy riding with Donald Kinney Jr., 16, in Nanticoke, and they were on their way to the girl’s house after she invited them to “hang out,” according to arrest papers.
While talking to Duda on the phone, the girl allegedly told police, she heard Kinney tell Duda to “slow down,” and then heard the crash that claimed the life of Nicholas Zurilla, 59, in front of Zurilla’s house at 340 W. Union St.
Zurilla was thrown through the Ford’s windshield, knocking Kinney unconscious. Limbs were severed from Zurilla’s body, arrest papers say.
Kinney was treated for facial injuries at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, police said.
The Ford careened out of control and struck a parked vehicle — which slammed into two other parked cars — and came to a stop 115 yards away against the front porch at 409 W. Union St.
The girl kept the phone open listening for 40 minutes after the fatal crash, according to the complaint.
A state police reconstruction of the crash alleges Duda was traveling in excess of 70 mph when he struck Zurilla, arrest papers say. The speed limit on West Union Street is 25 mph.
Duda was arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker on charges of homicide by vehicle, third-degree murder, accidents involving death, driving without a license, speeding, reckless driving and failing to stay in lane.
Duda had no comment when he was escorted to his arraignment and returned to the police department.
“He’s a good boy, he would give you the shirt off your back,” said a woman who refused to give her name at Duda’s arraignment. She said she is a relative of Duda’s and said he attends Dallas High School.
“This incident is a tragedy that has already unnecessarily taken one life affecting the victim’s entire family,” Salavantis said in a news release. “It will doubtlessly forever change the lives of (Duda) and his family.”
Zurilla had been sitting on the porch of his neighbor, Paul Murphy, at 341 W. Union St. As Murphy was about to enter his house, Zurilla was crossing the street and said in a loud voice, “This car is going to hit me,” according to arrest papers.
Murphy turned around and “had seen a car, and a body in front of it going directly upward and to the left,” arrest papers say.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20.