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Ethan man admits to drinking, driving before crash that killed Alexandria man

An Ethan man pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter and hit-and-run and then admitted to driving recklessly leading up to a fatal crash. Tate Thompson, 19, of Ethan, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and hit-and-run causing death or in...

The Davison County Public Safety Center, which holds the county's jail, is pictured Tuesday. (Luke Hagen/Republic)
The Davison County Public Safety Center, which holds the county's jail, is pictured Tuesday. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

An Ethan man pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter and hit-and-run and then admitted to driving recklessly leading up to a fatal crash.

Tate Thompson, 19, of Ethan, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and hit-and-run causing death or injury, stemming from a June 25 crash that killed 18-year-old Dylan Mentele, of Alexandria.

"I knew that drinking and driving was not right," Thompson said. "I was overdriving the road conditions, and when I was consuming alcohol, it was the wrong thing to do."

The crash occurred near the intersection of 258th Street and 409th Avenue in rural Davison County. Thompson said he and four passengers were leaving a party in Corsica, where he drank vodka before driving out of town.

Thompson didn't remember how fast he was going but did not contest law enforcement reports that he was traveling at 83 mph on the 55-mph road before losing control of the vehicle at a curve on the gravel road. Mentele suffered fatal injuries, and a 17-year-old female passenger was airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries.

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Although Thompson did not remember all the facts about the incident, Bjorkman said the factual basis was strong enough to prove Thompson was reckless.

"Anyone who has consumed alcohol and is driving - this is gravel - driving on a gravel road at or near 83 mph and then on a curve, is in my view aware of the serious risk of harm to other people and disregards it," Bjorkman said.

Thompson also admitted to leaving the scene on foot, traveling about one mile west to Enemy Creek.

Second-degree manslaughter is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Hit and run is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

Thompson was initially charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular battery and driving under the influence, but those charges will be dismissed. A presentence investigation was ordered, and sentencing was scheduled for April.

In addition to incarceration, Thompson could be ordered to pay restitution to the victims or their families, which could include counseling services, according to court disposition.

Related Topics: CRIMECRASHES
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