Man pleads guilty to charges stem­ming from 1-81 crash

Manan­nikov killed five peo­ple in al­co­hol-fu­eled in­ci­dent.

The Citizens' Voice - - Local / Region - BY JOSEPH KOHUT STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: jko­hut@timessham­rock.com 570-348-9144; @jko­hutTT

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.”

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

This Lin­coln MKZ was driven by Gen­nadiy Manan­nikov and dam­aged dur­ing the 2016 wrong-way crash on In­ter­state 81.

MANAN­NIKOV

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