Arrests made in car crash that killed Swain brothers

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 13, 2013
A memorial of flowers and candles left at the scene of the crash on the front lawn of 380 Forest St. after the fatal accident. File photos by Corey AmEnde.
A memorial of flowers and candles left at the scene of the crash on the front lawn of 380 Forest St. after the fatal accident. File photos by Corey AmEnde.

Three arrests have been made in connection with a fatal motor vehicle accident on Forest Street in the early morning of July 14 that killed two brothers – Robert Swain, 18, of East Hartford and La'Andrew Evans-Swain, 16, of Manchester.

Eric Watson, 18, of 22 St. Regis St., in East Hartford, the driver of the blue 1995 BMW 525i that crashed into the front lawn of 380 Forest St. just after 4 a.m. on July 14, was arrested on a number of charges. These include two counts of manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle, two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, two counts of misconduct with a motor vehicle, one count of assault in the second degree with a motor vehicle, one count of operating under the influence and one count of reckless driving for exceeding the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour on Forest Street and illegally crossing the double yellow lines, according to court documents. 

Watson's bond was set at $99,000 and his case has been continued to Oct. 8.

According to court documents, Watson was driving the BMW with three passengers – Robert and La'Andrew in the back seat, and Henry Le, 20,  in the front passenger seat – when they were returning back to East Hartford from the McDonald's on West Center Street in Manchester. The four had stopped at McDonald's along with another car with three passengers driven by Gustavo Moreno, 20, of 44 Forest Lane, in East Hartford.  Documents also note that the cars were traveling from a house party at 52 Timrod Trail, where alcohol was served.

Watson told police after he left McDonald's and turned onto Forest Street he was in front of Moreno's Buick. “Then at about the first stop sign on Forest Street, Gustavo passed me on the left,” Watson told police.  “At that point, I was going about 40 mph.  That's why I think he [Moreno] passed me.”

Watson said he then turned into the left lane to pass Moreno. “I say the car accelerated to about 70 mph, and right after I passed Gustavo, I was stepping on my brake because I knew the curve was coming up.  As I was preparing to go through the curve, I felt my car's rear end fish tail. After whatever I hit, I just blacked out,” Watson said in his statement.

“After they past (sic) me they sped up going way too fast,” Moreno told police. “I saw them take the corner, hit the pole and crash into the trees.”

The initial investigation determined that the BMW Watson was driving hit a utility pole on the north curb line of Forest Street then crashed into the front yard of 380 Forest St., striking a tree which caused the car to roll onto its passenger side. Le, the front passenger, sustained serious injuries including internal injuries and broken legs and ankles, according to court documents.  La'Andrew, a student at Manchester Regional Academy, was transported to Hartford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Robert Swain was pronounced dead at the scene.  He had just graduated from East Hartford High School in June, where he was a three-sport athlete competing in football, wrestling and volleyball.

Watson told police he had “two beers” at the party and denied using drugs.  He was taken to Saint Francis Hospital for precautionary measures, but was not injured. Tests revealed Watson had a blood alcohol concentration of .068, which classifies him as intoxicated because he is 18 years old, and “the legal limit for Watson's age is .02 percent for an operator of a motor vehicle under the age of 21 years old,” according to the arrest warrant application. 

The BMW that Watson was driving was inspected and found that, “both rear brake rotors were below minimum specifications and needed to be discarded,” according to court documents.  Both rear tires had very low tread and the rear right tire had no tread.  The right rear tire was also a different size from the other tires and, “appeared a contributing factor to this crash,” according to court documents. 

Moreno, the driver of the 1998 Buick LeSabre, said he had consumed, “about four or five Heinekens,” at the party.  Moreno was charged with one count of reckless driving, “for exceeding the posted speed limit of 30 mph and illegally crossing the double yellow lines in a passing maneuver,” according to court documents.  His bond was set at $10,000.

Duke Essiam, 23, of 52 Timrod Trail, in East Hartford, hosted the party at his house.  Essiam was charged with five counts of providing alcohol to minors, according to the arrest warrant application.

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