BANGOR – A man charged with three counts of manslaughter in the drunk driving deaths of his three friends at Acadia National Park over the weekend made his first court appearance on Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
New Jersey resident Praneeth Manubolu, 28, spent Friday night drinking with friends in Bar Harbor.
He later told investigators the group ended the night doing shots at Carmen Verandah in downtown. Sometime after that, the foursome made the deadly mistake of getting into a vehicle for a trip to nearby Acadia National Park.
According to investigators, that decision ended on the Park Loop Road when Manubolu rolled the vehicle on a hairpin turn killing his friends.
“Early Saturday morning at about 2:30 a.m. a car went off the road near the Gorge Path railhead and the result was that three people, three occupants died in that crash,” said John Kelly, a spokesman for Acadia National Park.
Manubolu was arrested Saturday morning after Bar Harbor police and park rangers found the bodies of his friends Lenny Fuchs, 36, Laura Leong, 30, and Zeeshan Mohammed, 27.
Police say the three New York City residents were pronounced dead at the scene.
“I don’t remember the last time we had a fatal accident in the park of this severity,” said Theresa Picard, Acadia National Park, deputy chief ranger. “But as I said, this is an ongoing investigation, and until the investigation concludes we won’t have any comment.”
On Tuesday, Manubolu appeared before Magistrate Judge John Nivison, who ordered he temporarily be held without bail.
No family members of the accused or the victims were in the federal courtroom, but three park officials were present.
The suspect still reeked of alcohol six hours after the crash, the investigating officer reported.
“Motor vehicle accidents involving fatalities are very rare in Acadia National Park,” Kelly said.
“They are historic, narrow, windy roads and are meant for slow speeds,” he added later. “We really encourage people to be cognizant of that and not be distracted by devices and certainly not involve alcohol in driving.”
Bangor attorney Jaime Nixon was appointed temporarily to represent Manubolu. Nivison said he reviewed Manubolu’s request for court-appointed counsel and it appears he makes too much money, but added that more paperwork is needed to determine if he qualified.
Manubolu is scheduled to be back in court next Tuesday, Sept. 10, for his preliminary hearing and to determine if he will be held in custody until his trial.