Man pleads guilty to charges stemming from 1-81 crash
Manannikov killed five people in alcohol-fueled incident.
A Lake Ariel man who pleaded guilty to killing five people in an alcohol-fueled crash nearly two years ago turned from the judge Friday and faced the families he tore asunder.
“I’m not a bad person,” Gennadiy Manannikov said apologetically. “I made a bad choice that night.”
Lackawanna County Judge Margaret Bisignani Moyle sentenced the 30-yearold Lake Ariel man to 18 to 36 years in state prison, well short of the 60 years he could have faced, for driving the wrong way on a major interstate and colliding head-on with another vehicle in one of the area’s most fatal crashes in recent history.
The Jan. 23, 2016, crash on Interstate 81 south between Dickson City and South Abington Twp. involved seven people in two cars. Only two survived.
Manannikov’s passenger, 32-year-old Ashley Wheeler, died at the scene, as did three people in the Honda he struck — Vinodchandra M. Patel, 68; Komal D. Vyas, 30; and Shilpaben Bhavesh Patel, 29. Bhaveshkumar Patel, 42, who was also in the Honda, died from his injuries about a week later. Only one passenger in the Honda survived — Silpaben Bharat Patel.
Manannikov had a blood alcohol content of 0.149 at the time of the wreck. A driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is intoxicated under Pennsylvania law. State police also said Manannikov was under the influence of marijuana.
By law, the judge had to sentence Manannikov to at least three years in prison for each victim.
Wheeler’s family expressed deep anger at Manannikov, who, for most of Friday’s proceeding, stared at the floor.
Wheeler’s sister, Ryan Butler, described Manannikov as a “sociopathic maniac” who hid his behavior behind a wall of “alcohol made me do it.”
Lisa Dobitsch, Wheeler’s aunt, told Manannikov, “You’ve taken children’s parents. Don’t forget it.”
Manannikov’s attorney, Terry McDonald, said his client suffers from insomnia since the crash and struggles to forgive himself. Routinely, Manannikov expresses that he would happily change places with any of the victims, McDonald said. Manannikov told the judge that his remaining recourse is to be a better man each day than he was the day before.
Moyle said she believes Manannikov is remorseful and reminded him that his life, while burdened with the deaths of five people, still has value. She urged him to speak out against intoxicated driving.
“You’re a 30-year-old man and you have to live for the rest of your life with the horror of your actions,” Moyle said. “Intentional or unintentional, the results are the same.”
This Lincoln MKZ was driven by Gennadiy Manannikov and damaged during the 2016 wrong-way crash on Interstate 81.