Police say they've found driver suspected in fatal hit-and-run near Aviano
July 14, 2006
Italian police say they have found the driver and car wanted in the hit-and-run accident that killed a U.S. senior airman early Saturday morning.
Police charged a 22-year-old man from Brugnera with negligent homicide, failing to render first aid, and fleeing the scene of an accident, Italian police officer Franco Crovatto said Thursday. Brugnera is a mid-sized community about 20 miles south of Aviano Air Base.
Col. Roberto Sardo, the Italian base commander at Aviano, announced the arrest to the base population during a memorial service for Senior Airman Seneca Johnson on Thursday.
“This will not give Seneca back to us,” he said.
Johnston, assigned to the 31st Maintenance Squadron, was killed early Saturday after being struck by two cars. The driver of the first car stopped to help Johnston, who then was hit by the second car and dragged about 100 feet.
The 22-year-old Italian was driving on the SS-13 in Sacile with a friend when he allegedly struck Johnston, panicked and fled, Crovatto said.
“He was overcome by fear, a big panic and neither boy could tell their parents what happened,” Crovatto said.
Italian police found the driver and car, a Citroen C4, Wednesday morning at the 22-year-old man’s house. As a result of the accident, the driver left behind a front piece of the car, which police used to identify the make and model. After searching registration records, police canvassed businesses, parking lots, homes and mechanic shops and eventually were led to the address, Crovatto said.
Italian law differs from U.S. law in that since the accused is not jailed and the matter has yet to enter the judicial system, police are not able to release the suspect’s name, Crovatto said. The magistrate of Pordenone is reviewing the case.
Italy has a “good Samaritan” law that requires motorists to help anyone injured in a traffic accident, whether the motorist was involved in the incident or a passer-by.
Likewise, motorists might be required, when possible, to transport the injured. The private vehicle, in essence, becomes an emergency vehicle when the driver flashes headlights, honks the horn and displays a white cloth or handkerchief from a window.
Reporter Kent Harris contributed to this report.