Defense: Man lost consciousness before driving into students

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A man on trial for murder for driving into an Oklahoma high school cross-country team, killing three, had lost consciousness after choking on an energy drink before the crash, his attorney said during opening statements.

Max Townsend, 58, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder and with leaving the scene of an accident in the February 2020 crash that killed three Moore High School cross-country runners in suburban Oklahoma City.

Defense attorney Kevin Butler said Townsend choked on the drink as he drove to the home of his 29-year-old son, who had been killed in a auto accident the day before, to plan his son’s funeral.

“He never even had the opportunity to form the criminal intent necessary to do this,” Butler said.

Prosecutors say Townsend accelerated his pickup truck to 77 mph (124 kph) before crashing into the group.

“The evidence before will show you that he acted with imminently dangerous conduct that endangered the lives of the children who were running outside of the Moore High School,” Assistant District Attorney Christy Miller said.

Townsend faces life in prison if convicted in the crash in Moore that killed Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18 and injured five other team members.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.