A former Philadelphia police sergeant has been ordered to stand trial on homicide and manslaughter charges in connection with an alleged drunken-driving crash that claimed the life of a Fishtown father of four last September.
During Thomas Winkis’ preliminary hearing last Wednesday, a witness testified that the officer drank numerous beers and shots with a friend at a Northeast bar on the night of Sept. 14 before leaving with the friend and driving his Dodge Challenger at a high speed south on State Road. The car struck a Ford van at the Ashburner Street intersection, killing the other driver, David H. Farries, 55.
An accident reconstructionist, Officer William Lackman, testified that an event (crash) data recorder inside Winkis’ car measured the vehicle’s speed at 101.5 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit on State Road is 35. Winkis’ blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.107, according to testimony. The legal threshold for drunken driving is 0.08.
“A friend testified that he had a number of bottled beers and two-and-a-half shots of Jamison. It can add up fairly quickly, and he was (at the bar) for four hours,” said Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb.
Winkis, 46, and his friend were wearing seatbelts, and their protective airbags deployed. They were not seriously injured.
The car struck the driver’s side of the van, ejecting Farries and leaving a 2-foot-deep indentation, the prosecutor said. The crash sparked a fire. Farries, who was not wearing a seatbelt, suffered head injuries and died three days later at a local hospital. There were no passengers in the van.
Winkis’ attorney, Fortunato N. Perri Jr., questioned the reliability of the Challenger’s data recorder, noting that it became saturated with water when firefighters doused the burning wreckage.
“It took a few days to dry it out,” Perri said.
Also, the defense attorney argued that Farries, who was traveling eastbound on Ashburner, didn’t stop for a flashing red light at the intersection, while Winkis had the right of way with a flashing yellow on State Road.
“It’s obviously a sad, tragic set of circumstances for everyone involved,” Perri said.
Lipscomb disputed the claim that Farries failed to yield.
“There’s nothing definitive whether the decedent stopped for the light,” the prosecutor said.
Winkis was hospitalized for a broken wrist. Upon his arrest, he was suspended, then fired by the Police Department. He had worked on the Police Headquarters staff.
Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons ordered Winkis to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, DUI and reckless endangerment. He remains free having posted 10 percent of $50,000 bail. A trial date has not been set. ••