Bethel man charged with killing friend in drunken crash

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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) Police say a passenger was killed and his best friend fled the scene in Royalton Friday. Both the families of the suspected driver and the victim were at the courthouse Monday calling the crash a tragic accident that resulted from a "stupid" decision.

"He was scared -- he got scared. None of us can say that we would have done anything different," said Roberta Staples, the mother of James Arbuckle, the victim in Friday's crash.

Police say 38-year-old Jeremy Potwin was driving with two friends in the car after a night out at the bar on Friday.

"I think it was just boys out there having a great time, and the accident come along with them," said Roland Potwin, Jeremy's dad.

Authorities say Potwin's car slammed into a guardrail on Back River Road in Royalton. The guardrail went through the right side of the car, killing Arbuckle, Potwin's friend of over 30 years.

"They were drinking. It was stupid," Staples said.

But police say Potwin also fled the scene, leaving his dead friend, and a third passenger, behind.

"I would assume that it being his best friend that he probably couldn't stand the pain no more there," Roland said.

"They all chose to get in that car. We blame nobody. We don't hold Jeremy responsible. We don't hold his parents responsible," Staples said.

But prosecutors are holding Potwin responsible. They've charged him with three felonies. "These are entirely preventable tragedies. No one had to die this past Friday," said Windsor County State's Attorney David Cahill.

Court documents show Potwin did not have a valid license, and his car was not registered. "This is someone who never should've been on the road to begin with," Cahill said.

Arbuckle's family says they don't want Potwin to be charged criminally. The state says that may be a factor in later proceedings, but is standing by the case for now. "They could've hit an innocent person coming the other way that's not a member of this circle of friends. And that's something the state is always mindful of," Cahill said.

Potwin entered pleas of not guilty to all charges and has already posted a $25,000 bail. He agreed to breath testing, still can't drive, and will have a 24-hour curfew that will keep him at home except to work.